Since Uber’s first ride request in 2010, the tech giant’s cutting edge engineering has revolutionized the rideshare industry. While today’s tech stack may be well equipped to build an app like Uber, the location-based startup was the first of its kind to put a taxi app with real-time GPS in people’s pockets.
With the finest software engineers and technologists onboard, the Uber tech team built everything from IT enterprise and infrastructure, to thousands of data pipelines and consumer-facing applications, paving the way for features such as real-time navigation and driver/passenger pairing.
So, what do you do when you need the tech resources to build an optimally functioning app for tens of thousands of drivers and over 40 million users in the U.S.? How do you maintain a separate tech stack for your drivers and passengers, hundreds of codependent microservers, as well as excessive amounts of complex data and analytics?
And not to forget, all of this while constantly enhancing your user experience, as well as overcoming the unending engineering and logistical challenges that come with building and maintaining an app of this magnitude.
Uber’s engineering team accomplished this by constantly responding to change with immense creativity and versatility. While Uber’s number of cars expanded, so did its technological scalability. When there wasn’t a ready-made answer for an innovative feature, Uber’s tech team created their own technological advancements.
So, is it even possible to clone an app that requires multiple technology stacks to keep the show on the road? For anyone looking to join the elite rideshare app market, the purpose of this article is to give you an idea of the technology that was used to build Uber, as well as the potential cost and time needed to bring a similar app to life.
Can You Build An App Like Uber?
While we would love for it to be straightforward to build a clone-like Uber app, that is unfortunately not the case. Anyway, an exact clone might not be what the market needs right now either.
Okay, then it’s simple, you’re going to hire the best app developers to build you a rideshare app like Uber. It’s going to have innovative features with a slick interface and easy-to-use navigation. And while your taxi app might not topple Uber from its perch, it’s going to be enough to join the rest of the competition as the next best thing. Pretty straightforward, right?
As simple and straightforward as that may sound, building an app like Uber is hard work. 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. 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
When building an app like Uber, it’s important to have an understanding of Uber’s tech stack (a combination of different technologies) past and present. 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 part of the build focused on the app’s infrastructure which was put in place to support everything that would be built on top of, 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.
The frontmost end of Uber’s app is The Marketplace which you can look at being the middle of the platform. 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.
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. A good way to get an idea of this is to compare it with the branches of a tree growing from the ground up.
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 tree were unique. This part of the build focused on user interfaces and experiences. Uber engineers used languages such as Express.js and React.js to build their web first web server which controlled infrastructure integration.
On the mobile side of things, 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 The Uber App Does
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 amount 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(s) Works
Now that you have an understanding of the technology behind Uber, we are going to break down the app’s core functionalities we touched on and see exactly how it operates. You may or may not have picked this up already, but 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. Uber uses two apps as their drivers and passengers each require specific functions on their respective 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 Uber app experiences, it would not function without an effective admin panel holding it all together. Let’s explore this in more detail.
Uber App Backend
Holding it all together, the Uber backend operates as the apps server and admin panel. The backend plays a key role as it is where requests are received from the driver and passenger apps.
The robust backend allows the Uber app to withstand high volume and collect the necessary data required from both 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 You Can Build An App Like Uber
Now that you have an idea of how the Uber app operates, it’s important to hone in on the specific features needed to effectively build an app like Uber.
As discussed, 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.
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.
- Communication: Your 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 Functionality||Programming Language|
|Dispatching||Redis & Node JS|
|Pricing & Payment||Python & Go|
How Much Does It Cost To Build An App Like Uber
To provide you with 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 your Uber-like app. Let’s take a look at the potential costs for the features we mentioned above.
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:
|Hours||16 – 24||24 – 32||24 – 32||32 – 40|
|Cost||$2k – 3k||$2k – 4k||$2k – 4k||$4k – 5k|
Geolocation & Navigation
When building an app like Uber, Geolocation is a very important technology needed in the build. An effective taxi booking app will need effective 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.
The following is the estimated cost and time for a U.S. developer to implement this type of feature:
|Hours||100 – 150||100 – 150||100 – 150||150 – 200|
|Cost||$12.5k – 19k||$12.5k – 19k||$12.5k – 19k||$19k- 25k|
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.
|Hours||65 – 110||65 – 110||80 – 125|
|Cost||$8k – 14k||$8k – 14k||$10k – 15.5k|
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.
|Hours||16 – 24||24 – 32||24 – 32||30 – 38|
|Cost||$2k – 3k||$3k – 4k||$3k – 4k||$3.75k – 4.75k|
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.
|Hours||60 – 80||80 – 100||80 – 100||120 – 150|
|Cost||$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.
|Hours||50 – 60||60 – 80||60 – 80||80 – 110|
|Cost||$6.25k – $7.5k||$7.5k – $10k||$7.5k – $10k||$10k – $13.75|
Who Is Going To Build Your App?
Okay, so we’ve looked at the potential cost and time needed to build an app like Uber, now you just need someone to build it for you. Thankfully you don’t have to be tech-oriented or have unlimited resources to do this, as there is no shortage of experienced app developers chomping at the bit to help you build a new innovative app.
So, there are two main options here which depend on your unique circumstances, mainly resources, budget, and time. These main options are hiring a developer or going down the staff augmentation route. Let’s take a look at each.
IT Staff Augmentation
If you have some tech resources but need expert guidance, IT staff Augmentation is a good fit. There are many benefits associated with IT staff augmentation, mainly that it’s cheaper than hiring an app developer. Another benefit is avoiding the hiring process and training any new personnel.
As well as being cost-effective, it can save time and prevent unnecessary setbacks. With IT staff augmentation, you get highly trained developers who are ready and qualified to help you build an app. See how companies are using IT staff augmentation to lower costs when building apps like Uber.
Hiring an App Development Agency
If you are non-tech-oriented, hiring a developer may be the best option to help you build an app. It can take some time and research to find the right app developer, but there are benefits if you put in the research and get it right.
This part of the process will eat into your budget with the development of apps ranging from $80k to $250k. While there are more cost-effective nearshore options available, the following table provides a breakdown of the price for the three top app developer cities in the U.S.
|Location:||Los Angeles||New York||San Francisco|
|Hourly Rate:||$100 – $199||$100-$199||$100 – $199|
|Min Project Size:||$10,000||$50,000||$10,000|
This could be the most crucial decision in your app development process and many find it daunting. So, to help you out, here are some tips and techniques to put those worries at ease and get you on your way.
Once you know who is going to build you an app, you will need to work with them to develop your own business strategy. The Uber business model is an effective template to mirror for your taxi app development. This is a highly important part of the process as it can set you up for future success or failure.
When building an app like Uber, it’s important to have a clear and concise revenue model embedded in your app before development. A successful pricing model could make all the difference and help your app stand out from the competition. See how Google’s pricing model operates.
One of the cost-effective practices Uber incorporates is it does not provide drivers with cars i.e only drivers with personal vehicles can drive for the company. Also, Uber uses the following price estimator to determine its rider prices.
When building an Uber-like app, keeping an eye on your competitors is a vital ongoing process. As Uber continues to add niches and industries to its portfolio, so too is the competition. Even for an industry leader, Uber had a rough 2019 due to its stiff competition and reportedly lost up to $5 billion by the end of the year. It has also suffered substantial losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Competitors such as Lyft, OLA, Curb, Grab, and Postmates, to name a few, are hot on their heels and developing innovative features of their own. There are also more traditional transportation areas stroking their interests such as car rentals, buses, and bikes. A good example of this would be Lyft incorporating New York City’s Citibike into their service.
To give you an idea of the type of competition Uber faces, we used the following table to show you the top 10 Uber clones in niche markets:
# of Users
|Slick, jQuery, NGINX,|
S3/SQS & ElastiCache, Kotlin, AWS Lambda, Redis, Spring BootLiquibase, Markdown, Hibernate, NGINXJava, PostgreSQL, Apache Tomcat, Rabbit MQ
UK & Israel
|Apache Spark, Hadoop,NGINX, React, Bootstrap, PostgreSQL, Redis, Ruby, Amazon EC2, Redux, Go|
|Node.js, PHP, NGINX, React, Java, CloudFlare, AngularJS, Codelgniter|
|Ubuntu, Amazon EC2, PHP, NGINX, Bootstrap|
|Google Tag ManagerjQuery, CloudFlare, Node.js, NGINX|
|Traefik, Nginx, Elixir, React, SwiftScala, Google Tag Manager, Python,NGINX, GO, Ruby, RxJava, PostgreSQL|
|Easy Taxi||Global||Foundation, NGINX, PHP, Bootstrap||2011||17.0M||$5 – 25M|
$25 – 100M
What To Take Away
As touched on, there is quite a lot of work involved in building this type of app. There is also stiff competition developing innovative technological advances that will likely continue to disrupt the transportation industry.
That being said, there are resources available to help your rideshare app come to life. We’ve examined and broken down the technical and financial needs, as well as the key steps to take in the pre-development phase of your app.
An advantage you have is that technology, in particular, 5G, is constantly changing the landscape. This is already clearing the way for potentially more than just traditional car ride service, i.e flying taxis and self-driving cars. Yes, it looks like that time may be on the horizon, even after Uber’s unsuccessful attempts at both.
Similar to fintech, the transportation industry, in particular, self-driving cars, has investors paying very close attention. While it has proved tricky and there have been setbacks, self-driving cars are a potential game-changer in this marketplace.
Consequently, when building an app like Uber, it could prove beneficial to brainstorm other niches and keep ahead of the game here. Some examples of this are Uber Groceries, Uber Business, Uber Health, etc. For inspiration, check out the complete list of Uber’s technology offerings.
So, the competition is fierce, and keeping up with them will be key to your app’s success. In saying that, it’s also important to be innovative and create game-changing ideas of your own. And while you might not be ready for self-driving cars and air transportation just yet, they are prime examples of the endless technological possibilities at your disposal.
Frequently Asked Questions
The development costs of an app can range anywhere from $80k to $250k+, depending on the complexity and scope of the app, as well as its intended platform and category. An app development agency’s location and its development methodology approach are also contributing factors. See how companies are using IT staff augmentation as an alternative to lower costs.
The amount of time to develop an app like Uber will generally take between three to nine months to complete. The three main factors influencing this are who is building the app, the complexity of the app, and it’s intended platforms. See how companies are using IT staff augmentation as an alternative to lower costs.
When building an app like Uber, the two most effective options are to use IT staff augmentation or hire an app developer. Staff augmentation is the cheaper of the two and is best used to supplement an existing tech team. While hiring an app developer is more expensive, hiring a reputable app development agency will give you instant access to resources and expertise. See how companies are using IT staff augmentation as an alternative to lower costs.