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Uber rebuilt its navigation app with drivers in mind

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Ride-share drivers have unique needs when it comes to getting directions

Screenshot: Uber

Anyone who frequently uses ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft knows the frustration that can come from a driver and rider trying to find each other. Sometimes the driver is on the wrong side of the street, or misses their turn — and sometimes the rider gives terrible directions over the phone.

Uber wants to fix that and has reworked the navigation system it builds into the Uber Driver app in a bid to get everyone to where they’re going more quickly. The navigation system has been redesigned on iOS, and will be coming soon to Android for the first time.

Screenshot: Uber

A navigation app like Google Maps or Waze — which a number of ride-sharing service drivers turn to — is basically designed to get someone from point A to point B. But Uber drivers have slightly different needs, especially if they’re driving for the UberPool carpooling service.

UberPool might include several overlapping trips, or alternating passenger pickups and dropoffs, which an app like Google Maps isn’t designed for. Uber’s new mapping app, on the other hand, can now update the route in real time, requiring less app switching and fewer distractions for the driver — and thus, an increase in safety.

“It’s meant to have a seamless, integrated experience,” said Uber designer Christine Tao in an interview with The Verge. “Drivers don’t have to switch back and forth between apps, losing context on the way.”

Stringing multiple rides together, where a driver already has another rider scheduled before he’s finished dropping off the first, is made easier too because the app shows a preview of the next turn even before the dropoff is made. A “waiting for rider” mode does the same thing, allowing the driver to figure out what lane they’ll need to be in ahead of time.

Animation: Uber

It’s all about customizing the software to the unique needs of Uber’s drivers. The company’s design team has been working on the redesign for a year, speaking with drivers and brainstorming about what they need. With tens of thousands of drivers around the world (and an autonomous car program in the works), Uber has spent a ton of money and effort working to get the mapping right.

Though the company has the basics right now — real-time traffic, lane guidance, and night mode — it’s easy to predict Uber-specific features that could come along. Many Uber pickups at airports, for example, don’t take place at the normal passenger arrivals area, so the app could include custom directions to the ride-share area of the terminal that something like Waze wouldn’t offer.

Uber says it doesn’t currently have plans to offer the program outside the company, and, though it wants its mapping program to be the preferred one for its drivers, Uber says drivers may continue to use whichever mapping solution they prefer.