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December 18, 2020

How To Build An App Like Uber

Since Uber’s first ride request in 2010, the tech giant's innovative engineers have revolutionized the rideshare industry. Fast forward to 2021, and withstanding a global pandemic, the company is now valued at over $15 billion.

These are impressive numbers for what started out as a simple idea that quickly became a global brand that rocked the rideshare industry to its core. 

With the post-pandemic economy waking up and vaccinations flowing, there has never been a better time to get in on the rideshare act. In March alone, Uber saw a 150% rise in revenue somewhere in the region of $83 billion. 

Factor in the additional demand for deliveries, now could be the time to bring your Uber-like app to life. While the competition is stiff, Uber and Lyft’s excessive price surging, combined with more social and work-related travel, there is plenty of room for an innovative new alternative. 

This article provides an in-depth and technical overview of the following information to get you on the road to disrupt the rideshare industry:

Table of contents

Can You Build An App Like Uber?

With Uber’s unlimited spending power and an engineering workforce for each individual platform in the hundreds, building an app like Uber is no small endeavor. 

Before committing to building the latest taxi app, there are many different areas to look at and options to consider. With technological advancements much further along from when Uber first came on the scene in 2010, this could perhaps be in your favor. 

For example, is there a tech stack you could choose that uses new and improved toolsets? Are there Whitelabel tools to build necessary functions like matching riders and passengers, or do you have to build it from scratch? Can you build an Uber-type clone using a “no-code” tool? 

Before embarking on your taxi app journey, it will help to have an idea of the original technology behind the Uber app. Let's take a look.

Uber’s Original Tech Stack 

The technology behind Uber has developed quite a bit since the app’s inception in 2010. Time is on your side here, as technological advances have made it a lot easier to implement the necessary features for a rideshare app. 

The first part of building Uber’s platform focused on the lower half of its tech stack which was the engine for Uber’s engineering operation. This solid foundation was primarily built using languages such as Python, Node.js, Go, and Java. These languages were used for key functionalities such as infrastructure and data storage, automation, and routing/mapping. 

This first instance of the build was centered on the app’s infrastructure which was put in place to support everything that would be built on top of it, and there was a lot.  The second part of the build (a separate tech stack), focused on everything from Marketplace to web and mobile development, in other words, the technology used for phone interaction.

Uber mobile app

This layer of the build channels real-time locations and requests for the app. It also houses the rider/driver matching system and a digital payment feature for transactions. The marketplace essentially allows for features to intertwine from top to bottom of the platform and flow up and down the stack. In other words, connecting drivers and passengers.

Uber engineers used all of its core languages at the time (Python, Node, Go, Java) to build its first marketplace. For Marketplace data and analytics on front-end applications, Uber used javascript, while on the back-end the engineers used Node.js. We will review Uber’s data and analytics process in further detail. 

When building the app’s trip execution engine for this part of the platform, Uber was one of only two companies to use Node.js for production purposes. At the time, the tool’s single-threaded processing and asynchronous primitives worked best for this feature. 

The next level build-up from the Marketplace was Uber’s web and mobile sides, and with it came completely different requirements. While similar technologies from the first tech stack and Marketplace were used by Uber’s engineers, a lot of the tech required at the top of the platform was unique.

The early Uber development team used languages such as Express.js and React.js to build their very first web server which controlled infrastructure integration. On the mobile side, Swift and Objective C were used to build iOS applications, while Java was used to develop the Android mobile app.

Uber’s engineers used third-party open-source libraries for the app’s unique needs. The size of Uber’s tech stack as well as a lack of general rules when originally developed, make it a very complex build to mirror.

What Does The Uber App Do?

On the surface, Uber appears to be a simple two-sided marketplace (two-sided network), but under the hood, the mechanics required to efficiently pair riders and drivers are quite complex: real-time embedded GPS and route optimization are among its most complex features. 

Similarly, complex features with multiple moving parts include messaging and rider recommendations, push notifications and SMS, as well as digital payment integrations. These multifaceted features all require sizable bespoke engineering.

An important functionality to factor into your app build will be facilitating the endless amount of constantly moving data through different platforms. The amount of data and analytics that the Uber app intakes is not an easy task to replicate. 

Think about it for a second - how do you absorb, store, and then analyze data for millions of car rides and everything else that comes with it? How do you digest this data for analytical and machine learning purposes? To give you an example, Uber created its own open-source deep learning engine, Neuropod.

To facilitate its data, Uber uses a large number of data pipelines, somewhere in the region of 15,000. Uber’s engineers originally used Python framework-based methods for these pipelines but discovered over time that this was time-consuming coding with the amounts of growing data that was being digested. This marked the beginning of Uber’s data movement - uWorc, Unified Workflow Orchestrator

How The Uber App Works

Uber has separate apps for both its drivers and passengers. These apps run on two frontends and a backend, with the latter operating as an admin panel for both apps.

The Uber app also has a highly robust backend that is key to the functionality of both these apps. Given the high volume the app experiences, it would not function without an effective admin panel.

Rideshare app

Uber App Backend

Holding it all together, the Uber backend operates as the app's server and admin panel. The robust backend plays a key role as it is where requests for necessary data are received from the driver and passenger apps.

The backend also manages customer satisfaction and driver processes via web interface tracking. This allows for the management and monitoring of drivers, passengers, payments, locations, etc. 

To build an app like Uber, your admin panel will need to have the following set of high-level functions to operate effectively: 

  • Verifying drivers, vehicles, and insurance
  • Managing and monitoring drivers
  • Verifying available and nearby drivers

How To Build an App like Uber

As previously mentioned, you will need separate apps for both drivers and passengers, as well as an admin panel to communicate between the two and collect data. Let’s start with the Uber driver app. 

Uber Driver App Functionalities

To build an app like Uber, your driver app will need embedded features to carry out the following: 

  • Alerting the driver: Your drivers will need the ability to view trip and passenger information, and the option to either accept a ride or take a pass. 
  • Notifications between both apps: You will need a notifications feature allowing drivers and passengers to track and monitor each other and the trip in real-time. 
  • Geographical & Navigation: This embedded feature is needed to provide drivers with directions, routes, navigation, etc 
  • Reporting: This function will be needed by drivers for tracking their trips, hours, mileage. They will also need this feature to invoice for their time.  
  • CommunicationYour driver app will need a messaging function allowing them to communicate with passengers and vice versa 

Passenger App Functionalities

Now that we’ve looked at the driver app features, let's take a look at the passenger’s functionalities needed to build an app like uber. Your riders will need the following features: 

  • Requesting a ride: Riders will need to be able to do this via their iOS or Android device by using their current location and their requested end destination 
  • Selecting a driver:  Riders will need to be instantly matched with nearby drivers with price, vehicle, and rideshare options displayed. 
  • Tracking driver: Passengers will need to be able to track their driver’s location in real-time via their current location. 
  • Communication: Just like the driver app, your passenger app will need a communication tool to speak with drivers. 
  • Payment: Your passenger app will need a digital payment feature allowing passengers to pay drivers for their ride service. 
  • Feedback: This option will allow passengers to leave a review and rate the driver. This is an important feature for customer service. 

The Uber app uses the following programming languages for implementing these features on their apps:

App FunctionalityProgramming LanguageSmalltalk Javascript & Objective-CDispatchingRedis & Node JSSupply & DemandJavascript & Objective-CPricing & PaymentPython & Go
Uber app programming languages

How Much Does It Cost To Build An App Like Uber?

To give you an idea of how much you may need to build an app like Uber, we are going to break down the price and time it can take to build the necessary infrastructure for this type of app.

Notifications & Communication

To build a taxi app, you will need a notification feature to communicate with your customers, and also for drivers and passengers to communicate with one another.   

For their iOS applications, Uber uses Apple Push Notifications, and for its Android app, it uses Firebase Cloud Messaging. Uber uses the cloud communications platform Twilio for communication between drivers and passengers. This is an important feature as it can play a big part in customer satisfaction. 

The following is the estimated cost and time for a U.S. developer to implement a communications and notifications feature:

Admin PaneliOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours16 - 2424 - 3224 - 3232 - 40Cost$2k - 3k$2k - 4k$2k - 4k$4k - 5k

Geolocation & Navigation

Geolocation is a very important technology needed for this type of build. An effective taxi booking app will need high-performing navigation and mapping technologies embedded in its apps.

These technologies will allow these apps to locate drivers and passengers, and provide routes to pickups and end destinations.

To add this important feature, Uber uses CoreLocation for iOS implementation, and Google’s location APIs for its Android implementation. 

The following is the estimated cost and time for a U.S. developer to implement this type of feature:

Admin PaneliOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours100 - 150 100 - 150 100 - 150 150 - 200Cost$12.5k - 19k$12.5k - 19k$12.5k - 19k$19k- 25k

UX/UI Design

In the development phase of your app, this is where you will be allocating most of your budget to. We will go into your developer options in more detail shortly, but in the meantime here is the potential cost for a U.S. developer to create a UX/UI for your taxi app.

iOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours65 - 11065 - 11080 - 125Cost$8k - 14k $8k - 14k $10k - 15.5k

Ride Cancellation

If you’ve used the Uber app or any ride app for that matter, you’ll have likely used this feature on at least one occasion. While most likely not the most favored feature it is however a necessary one. 

Here is the potential breakdown of what a cancellation feature by a U.S. developer could cost when you when building an app like Uber.

Admin PaneliOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours16 - 2424 - 3224 - 3230 - 38Cost$2k - 3k $3k - 4k$3k - 4k$3.75k - 4.75k

Digital Payments

More popular than the previous, your payment option is a feature of significant importance for your taxi app. To accommodate payment inquiries, Uber has a price estimator feature

There is no shortage of payment features to choose from here. Uber uses Braintree for this functionality but other options include Stripe, Paypal, etc. 

The following tables display the potential cost of implementing a digital payment feature for your app by a U.S. developer.

Admin PaneliOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours60 - 8080 - 10080 - 100120 - 150Cost$7.5k - 10k$10k - $12.5k$10k - $12.5k$15k - 18.75

Passenger Sign Up & Profile

When building an app like Uber, this important feature will allow customers to sign up and create a profile on your app. A seamless and easy-to-use registration and interface will entice customers to continue using the app after signing up. This feature also allows customers to apply promo codes and leave reviews. 

Here is the potential breakdown of what a U.S. app developer would cost to build this type of feature.

Admin PaneliOSAndroidCross-PlatformHours50 - 6060 - 8060 - 8080 - 110Cost$6.25k - $7.5k$7.5k - $10k$7.5k - $10k$10k - $13.75

Who Is Going To Build Your APP?

Thankfully you don’t have to be tech-oriented or have unlimited resources to build

Author

Shaun Kennedy