Jennifer Atkinson

Growth hacker, Marketer , Startup Business Advisor

How to Create a Ride-hailing App like Uber & Lyft? Technology Stack, Estimated Cost, and Features

The global market strives to cater to the ever-changing demand and supply. Balancing the two critical parameters crowns a service provider exemplary. Uber hit the jackpot (followed by Lyft) in the taxi industry with its on-demand services, or more precisely, nailed the market with an extraordinary app.

What are on-demand services?

In layman’s terms, the solution provided by improving or enhancing an existing service and offering it on-demand in real-time is termed as on-demand services. The same goes for Uber’s and Lyft’s contribution to the taxi industry. The dynamic duo (though competitors) cater to the growing demand for convenient taxi solutions with their apps running on both iOS and Android platforms. By blending infrastructure, resources, technology, and accessibility, Uber & Lyft scaled their businesses with smart on-demand mobility solutions. 
If you're planning on developing an Uber clone for on-demand taxi services, I’d suggest you read further to learn about the tech stack, the critical app features, and the overall cost to build. 

Tech mountain behind Uber like app development

Service providers like Uber rely upon technology to connect drivers with service seekers. Let's roll up our sleeves and commence learning about the tech that goes behind making an app like Uber.
Smart Geolocation
The location services are crucial for the on-demand taxi app functioning. Once the service seeker accesses the app, it tracks the real-time location and shows the available taxis nearby. Post tapping “Book-now,” available drivers (nearby) will be notified and the passenger's pickup location is confirmed (once the the ride request has been accepted).
The location technology for the Driver’s location comprises the CoreLocation framework (API) for the iOS platform and Google’s Location APIs for the Android platform. Similarly, the navigation modules include MapKit (API) and Google Maps Android API for the iOS and Android platforms, respectively. 
SMS/Text & Push Notifications
Text/SMS notifications work along with push notifications because the latter does not function during offline mode. Text messages ensure that the concerned users (Drivers & Passengers) remain updated regarding their service requests. 
Apple’s push notification service during offline mode queues up notifications but does not deliver them when the user device goes online. Developers remain in the dark whether the information (during offline mode) has been delivered or not to the user via the Apple push notification services (for iOS devices). However, a similar situation is not reflected in the Google cloud messaging (GCM) & notification services (for Android devices). 
Notifications that are custom programmed for the on-demand taxi app users (Drivers and passengers):
Before booking a cab
Passenger: Notifications regarding special offers
Driver: Surge price alerts
Passenger: Reminder to avail assigned promo codes
After booking a cab
Driver: Accept or reject ride request*
Passenger: Ride request accepted
Passenger: Ride request cancelled*
Passenger: Driver & vehicle information
Passenger: Taxi arriving at location
Driver: Trip request cancelled by passenger*
Passenger: Update in fare pricing*
Note: *The notification types and triggers can be updated/modified depending on business needs. 
Twilio currently leads the market for its SMS notification services for clients such as Uber, Lyft, Hulu, Netflix, and others. However, other players are offering similar services (as stated below):
In-app communication
Inter-app communication (between driver app and passenger app) is vital for seamless operations. The dedicated driver and rider app are enabled to communicate service-related information in real-time. To avoid hindrance when the passenger app goes offline, integrating cloud tech ensures continued communication post booking a taxi (service). Once the passenger comes online, he/she can track the driver’s location over Wi-Fi or mobile data. The data exchange is end-to-end encrypted as per the enterprise's request. 
Driver and passenger/rider app communicate with each other during the following operational scenarios:
  • Live location (of driver) sent to the passengers app
  • Booking requests to drivers
  • Booking cancellation (Driver and passenger app)
  • Pick-up location (of passengers) to the driver app 
  • Drop-off location (of passengers) to the driver app
Web & Mobile
App for iOS and Android differ with regards to tech. The following comprises the necessary tech platforms and integrations for building an on-demand taxi app (for iOS and Android platforms). 
iOS tech
Android tech
In-app payment gateways
On-demand taxi apps encourage cashless payment by offering numerous payment methods such as credit/debit cards, online digital wallets, dedicated payment apps, and others. However, specific locations demand cash payment options due to limitations such as unavailability of reliable online payment system, geographical restrictions, and others. A commission (for drivers) for each ride would either be deducted via online payment (before crediting to the driver) or split-fare during cash transactions. 
Integrate popular payment gateways like Braintree. The company, serving clients like Uber, leads the market in card payments. Other players such as Stripe and PayPal also offer great value with former catering to clients such as Lyft, Instacart, and others. These popular payment gateways can be easily integrated into both Android and iOS apps. 
Note: Split-fare is a default option offered by payment gateway giants like Stripe and Braintree.

What is the cost to develop a taxi app like Uber?

Before we discuss the cost, the following are the essential pillars of the online taxi booking business:
  • Driver app
  • Passenger app
  • Dispatch panel
  • Admin panel
The cost of developing an on-demand taxi booking app varies. The variation depends on the business requirements, the idea, the target audience, platforms to be built for, and others. Mobile app developers usually provide their services for hourly rates, which vary from $20 per hour to $200 per hour depending on the project complexity, time-frame, and other factors. Let’s check out the time required to develop/integrate the following key features:
Wireframing
The development process begins with wireframing. The foundation of the app comprises building wireframes for the app screens (for driver app, passenger app, dispatch panel & admin panel). Wireframing process is highly time-consuming for mobile apps compared to web applications and attracts more significant responsibilities. 
The estimated time for a complete wireframing process ranges between 8 to 10 hours, depending on the complexity of the app. 
UI/UX design & development
Users expect an engaging & easy to use application. An app is expected to convey the offering and information accurately at each step. The design comprises animation, unique elements for an orderly transition between each screen and the theme that best describes the offering. The following are crucial for a smooth UI/UX design:
  • Simple & engaging design
  • Familiarity retention
  • User-friendly
  • User clarity 
The estimated time to complete design wireframes ranges between 14 to 16 hours, and for UI/UX design, it ranges between 60 to 65 hours.
Registration and Profile creation
Profile generation is crucial for users (drivers and passengers) to register and use the app’s services. You can choose a simple user sign-up and profile creation comprising basic requirements, or move towards a complex sign-up process with numerous parameters for a comprehensive (profile) look. The popular social media sign-up or login can also be integrated for reaching a wider audience. Let’s check out the overall time to develop the following:
Sign-in/Sign-up - 8 to 10 hours
User registration via mobile - 4 to 6 hours
Profile editing- 10 to 12 hours
User (driver & passenger) review - 2 to 4 hours
Social media integration - 2 to 5 hours
Location tracking
This critical feature is essential to connect riders with nearby drivers and assist drivers with pick-up and drop-off locations. The smart device GPS offers a precise countdown for the driver arriving at the passenger pick-up location and further tracking of drivers via the passenger app in real-time. Following is the time required to integrate location tracking (GPS) in the app:
Geolocation - 4 to 6 hours
Track ride - 18 to 22 hours
Location & re-routing integration - 28 to 30 hours
Time-estimation - 4 to 6 hours
Payment integration
For secured cashless transactions, integrate multiple payment options such as credit/debit cards, dedicated payment apps, online digital wallets, and others. Integrate popular payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree, and others into the on-demand taxi app. Following is the breakdown of the time estimate of merging payment integration with the taxi app:
Trip cost - 6 to 8 hours
Payment gateway integration - 40 to 45 hours*
Add & scan a card - 6 to 10 hours
Note: *The payment gateway integration time may vary depending on the gateway service provider Stripe, Braintree, and others.
In-app messaging & push notifications
Push notifications are crucial in keeping users (Drivers & Passengers) updated with regards to their trip request. In-app messaging, as discussed earlier, is an essential means of smooth communication between drivers and passengers. Let’s check out the time taken for developing and integrating solutions into the app:
SMS integration - 6 to 8 hours
Push notifications - 8 to 10 hours*
Note: *The SMS integration time may vary depending on the service provider such as Twilio, Sinch, Nexmo, and Pilvo.
What are the crucial features of the taxi app?
As mentioned earlier, an on-demand taxi service comprises dedicated apps for Drivers and Passengers and a custom panel for Admin & Dispatchers. 
Passenger app
  • Register/log-in
  • Profile creation
  • Push notifications
  • Payments
  • Fare calculator
  • Ride history
  • In-built messaging
  • Driver rating & review
  • Vehicle selection
  • Split payment
  • Tracking taxi
  • Interactive map
Driver app
  • Registration
  • Profile creation
  • Accept/decline the ride request
  • Passenger ratings & reviews
  • Push notifications
  • Reports
  • Pick-up & drop-off navigation
  • Trip history
  • Cost estimation
Admin panel
  • Driver management
  • Vehicle management
  • Payment management
  • Ratings & reviews management
  • Complaint management
  • Earnings report
  • Performance report
Dispatch panel
  • Fleet management
  • Tracking trips
  • Manage service requests
  • Matching drivers & passengers
  • Reviews & feedback management
Summing-up
There may be more to developing a taxi app like Uber. However, being prepared before launching the business and talking with app development experts can help you tackle the chicken-or-egg problem.

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