Dara Khosrowshahi, CEO of Uber, went undercover as a driver to better understand and improve the driver experience on the app, according to an interview with The Wall Street Journal. The campaign, code-named Project Boomerang, was part of Uber’s efforts to tackle the labor shortage crisis caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The undercover operation revealed that the sign-up process for Uber drivers was clunky, prompting the company to create a single sign-up for rides and deliveries. Additionally, drivers could not see the destination and projected payment before accepting trips, which the company has since changed. Uber has also introduced measures to prevent tip-baiting, better labeling for trips with multiple deliveries, and improvements to maps, including avoidance of accident-prone intersections.
As governments in the U.S. and abroad grapple with classifying drivers and ensuring greater benefits and protections, driver pay remains a contentious issue. While New York City sets a minimum wage for Uber drivers, Uber and Lyft have been forced to shell out money to attract both drivers and riders at various points.
As reported by The WSJ, Carrol Chang, Uber’s head of driver operations, presented a 227-slide presentation to company executives, outlining the competing objectives of keeping costs low, avoiding legal risks, and attracting drivers. This so-called “triangle of death” had paralyzed Uber’s ability to do more for its drivers.
Khosrowshahi stated, “I think that the industry as a whole, to some extent, has taken drivers for granted.”
Khosrowshahi’s initiative led to significant improvements, such as Uber measuring real-time demand at drop-off locations and paying drivers more for trips to areas with low ride demand. In September, the company introduced pay and destination disclosure in Chicago, enabling drivers to see the value and location of a ride before accepting it.
Downloads of Uber’s driver app in the U.S. more than doubled in 2022 compared with 2019, according to analytics firm Data.ai. Globally, Uber’s ride-share drivers bounced back to pre-Covid levels, ending 2022 with a record number.
Uber is working on new safety features to boost the number of female ride-share drivers and is designing more efficient ways for drivers to receive ride and delivery requests simultaneously. The company also started providing drivers with weekly summaries on fare division, showing them the company’s share and the amount allocated to tax and other charges.
Project Boomerang and Khosrowshahi’s undercover experience as a driver led to significant changes in Uber’s operations and approach to driver experience. The company’s revamped strategy and driver-focused improvements have helped it outpace its main competitor, Lyft, and establish a better rapport with its drivers.