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Washington - Uber has introduced in-app tipping for drivers, a feature sought by ride-hailing giant's workforce and long-offered by chief competitor Lyft. 

The feature was launched in Minneapolis, Seattle and Houston. The company said it is adding more cities in the coming weeks. Uber said it expects tipping to be available to all US drivers by the end of July.

"Why now? Because it's the right thing to do, it's long overdue, and there's no time like the present," Uber said in a news release. Uber did not immediately specify when the feature will become available in DC.

Lyft has offered tipping in its app since 2012, and said in March that drivers have netted more than $200 million in tips since then. TechCrunch reported this week that the figure has surpassed $250 million.

Read also: Driver tips to change for Uber

Uber touted its in-app tipping announcement as part of an initiative called "180 Days of Change," where it introduced a series of features aimed at improving the driver experience.

The changes include shorter cancellation windows for riders down to two minutes from five compensation during wait times, and a $2 "teen fare" for trips on teen accounts. The teen fare will initially be available in Seattle, Phoenix and Columbus, Ohio, Uber said.

Uber and its workforce have been engaged in an extended labor struggle, as drivers have pushed for better labor protections and higher earnings. The Independent Drivers Guild, an affiliate of the Machinists' Union that represents about 50 000 ride-hail drivers in New York City, called Tuesday's announcement a "win for drivers."

"Cuts to driver pay across the ride-hail industry have made tipping income more important than ever," said Jim Conigliaro Jr, the guild founder. "We were proud to lead the way on this fight on behalf of drivers in New York City and across the nation. This is an important first step toward a fairer ride-hail industry."

Conigliaro said the guild forced the introduction of tipping by putting pressure on regulators. New York's Taxi and Limousine Commission is weighing a proposal that would require in-app tipping.

And Uber spokesman said the company had been working on the feature for a long time, before any legislation came up.

Uber says it won't take a cut of driver tips. Meanwhile, riders will fork over costs for extended wait times, beginning two minutes after the driver arrives, according to an Uber spokesman. The rider will see a separate "Wait Time" fee on their receipt once the trip ends.

WASHINGTON POST