File picture: Toby Melville / Reuters.

Johannesburg - App-based taxi company Uber is now allowing its drivers to choose whether they want to accept cash-paid trips or not. 

Uber, which opened in South Africa in 2013 as a credit card-paid service exclusively, but opened cash payments last year to extend its client base to include riders who might not have access to credit facilities, has released the new “cash indicator” as a pilot function based on feedback from its driver-partners.

“We’ve received a lot of feedback from driver-partners expressing their need to be able to choose the kind of trips they want to accept,” says Uber SA General Manager, Jonathan Ayache. “This feedback came from our focus groups, comments at partner appreciation events and recent safety working groups. We’ve taken heed of this request and believe the new cash indicator pilot will address their needs”.

From May, 2016 Uber drivers who were notified of waiting riders in their vicinity via smartphone app had no way of knowing how the fare would be paid until they arrived at the client. While this system was successful at expanding the Uber customer base, it also opened the door to ambush attacks on drivers.

Uber customers who register with the app using credit card details can be easily traced, but cash customers making use of the e-hailing service can transact relatively anonymously. 

“Unfortunately, Uber’s technology cannot prevent crime,” said Ayache. “But with the introduction of core safety features such as GPS tracking, 24/7 support, an emergency number for drivers, as well as our partnership with multiple security companies, and now, the cash indicator, we are doing everything we can to prioritise the safety of those using the Uber app. We will regularly monitor the success of the pilot.”

The new cash indicator will only be visible to drivers for cash trips. No indicator will be displayed for card trips. The indicator will be clearly visible under ETA (estimated time of arrival) on the driver’s app and the dispatch process will not be impacted at all, according to Uber.

If a driver declines a cash fare, the app will immediately alert another driver in the area. 

Uber is a technology company connecting riders with drivers, through a smartphone app.

It is available in 633 cities around the world, including Durban, Cape Town, Port Elizabeth, Pretoria and Johannesburg.

Uber operates in 12 cities in sub-Saharan Africa including Nairobi, Mombasa, Lagos, Abuja, Kampala, Accra and Dar es Salaam.

Uber facilitated more than a million trips in South Africa in 2014, and two million in the first half of 2015.

Uber has pledged globally to enable a million economic opportunities for women by 2020.