Low utilization of Uber's resources
During emergencies like natural disasters or a major act of
violence, there are numerous challenges – not enough resources to
transport and shelter all of the evacuees, communication issues,
medical assistance, etc.
With its transportation platform across 900+ cities and
services such as Uber Freight, Uber Copter, and Uber Eats,
Uber is in a unique position to help in disaster relief
Uber pledges on average around $300k per major disaster but
this is not well known to the public. This results in low
utilization rates on these offers due to low discoverability
and lack of partnerships.
How might Uber utilize current resources and infrastructure
help disaster relief situations?
Diving into disaster response
The first step for the team was to understand the design space i.e
disaster response and become comfortable with the terminology used
in the field. Since we were designing for high-risk situations, we
wanted to perform comprehensive research and talk to experts in the
field. I approached this task with a goal to understand the
currently existing challenges and solutions in disaster response i.e
find the gaps for improvement.
Transportation - for everyone, everywhere
When simply put, Uber excels at moving humans and resources from
point A to B. During our meetings with Uber representatives, I made
it a priority to understand Uber's vision and expectations. Our goal
as a team was to ensure our solution aligns with their mission of
bringing cheaper and reliable transportation everywhere. We worked
on this in the following two ways:
Competitive Analysis: See what's out there and how
companies with similar resources and domain expertise are
making a difference. Eg. Comparison with Facebook, Amazon,
Google, Lyft and Ola to name a few.
Dimensional Analysis: Map the data from competitive
analysis on a 2D matrix to get a sense of opportunity gaps as
Dimensional analysis to find opportunity gaps for Uber
High-risk vs Low-risk situations
The dimensional analysis helped us brainstorm possible directions
our solution could take and we found two promising directions that
can be explored. We also maintained a feedback loop with Uber's
design team to spot mistakes early in our process.
Potential directions for our solution after ideation
Riders, Drivers and everyone else
We knew that we were not going to be able to create a solution for
both the directions that we were exploring in the time frame
provided. Therefore, our next step was to perform extensive user
interviews and narrow down. Our potential users are outlined below:
Uber drivers - Would drivers be willing to pick up
people or resources in emergency situations? Also, what is
their definition of an emergency situation?
Uber riders - Would riders be willing to use the Uber
ridesharing or delivery services during an emergency? Also,
would they be willing to travel with strangers during such a
Everyone - What is the need of an individual or an
organization during or after a disaster? We wanted the
solution to also help people who are not existing Uber users.
Empathy map for drivers based on interviews
Drivers are not likely to drive in high-risk situations
Drivers play such a pivotal part in the Uber service and we found
that they are not likely to drive in high-risk situations such as an
earthquake or a mass shooting despite monetary incentives.
Similarly, riders do not want to interact with strangers due to
mistrust and want to get home as quickly as possible. As a result,
we decided that we want to focus on low-risk situations such as
the aftermath of disasters when the situation has settled and
there is a need for recovery or sustenance.
Eg, the aftermath of an earthquake or a flood.
Our project had been impacted due to COVID-19 restrictions and the
theme had seeped into our conversations with drivers as well as our
A donation platform with COVID-19 as a use case
After further ideation and brainstorming for low-risk situations, we
decided to create a donation platform where individuals can donate
resources to disaster relief organizations via the Uber delivery
service. Also, with a motive of contributing to the needs of the
hour, we decided to use the ongoing COVID pandemic as a use case for
our donations platform prototypes.
Sketching and user flow
We had now moved on to the design phase to give our idea a concrete
form. I led feature conceptualization sessions which involved
sketching and creation of user flows. Doing this activity as a group
ensured that the team was on the same page regarding the
functionality of the product.
Switching to low-fidelity prototypes for testing
We quickly shifted to low fidelity prototypes in Figma using
components from Uber's design library. Our goal was to test our
prototypes with Uber drivers, potential donors, and members of
non-profit organizations thus performing end-to-end testing.
I audited the less familiar Uber
applications such as Uber Freight and Uber Driver to ensure that we
reuse design patterns already existing within Uber's ecosystem.
A multi-platform service
Uber's applications are widely used across the world to cater to a varied userbase.
Therefore, our solution which incorporated the same led us to create prototypes across
Uber uses accent colors to define and segregate different services
in their application.This motivated us to define an accent color for
the Uber Aid platform to differentiate it as a new service.
Bob registers the items he wants to donate with Uber Aid.
Red Cross, an organization registered with Uber Aid views all the available donations. They make a request for Bob's items.
Bob gets notified that Red Cross has requested his items. He accepts the request and schedules a pickup of the items.
Mark, a driver with Uber delivers items from Bob to Red Cross.
Red Cross can see the status of their request and Mark's location as he delivers the items to them.
A proof of concept.
Our project concluded with a presentation to the stakeholders at Uber where we presented our
prototypes and research to back the feasibility of the solution.
Our solution has kickstarted a conversation about the possibility of
Uber's involvement in disaster relief within the company.
The solution we put forward if implemented would provide drivers
continued income even in disaster situations.
As a next step, we would like to explore the possibility of organizations
preordering required items from donors who then manufacture those items to satisfy the demand.