Learning from cities at Uber

How open source collaboration & designing from data improves urban mobility

Uber Design
May 15 · 3 min read

Every minute of every day, consumers and partners on the Uber platform can tap a button and get a ride, get a meal or get work. That’s why we’re so committed to understanding how cities work.

Cities are complex, constantly evolving organisms. Making sense of those changes is imperative to our meeting the needs of the communities we serve.

That’s why we open source data tools to support the growth of an ecosystem that people can use to create safer standards, a cleaner environment, and greater efficiency in cities around the globe. To make this vision a reality, we open source data tools to promote collaboration and knowledge sharing.

Data bridges the digital and physical worlds

Design at Uber is unique because our users’ experiences within the app must align seamlessly with those in the physical world.

Visualizing data helps us bridge between worlds. We translate real-world data into virtual representations to help us study, shape, and transform. In turn, we bring those virtual representations back into physical space through the way we move around cities.

Laying a foundation

A few years ago, we realized we needed to create a wide array of tools to help us learn from the massive amounts of data we generate:

  • In 2015, we created the Data Visualization Team to build useful tools for data visualization and analysis. Data visualization is one important way we translate raw data noise into beautiful, useful design solutions.
  • In 2016, we created a design system for crafting better (more beautiful) data maps.
  • In 2017, we launched Uber Movement, a tool that uses our data to help urban planners make informed decisions about our cities.
  • That same year, our team partnered with Uber’s Advanced Technologies Group to create a web-based platform to better leverage the sensor-captured data from self-driving cars.
  • Now, we are open sourcing the Autonomous Visualization System (AVS), a powerful new way to understand, explore, and share autonomous data. Critically, we want AVS to serve as an important tool to help guide the continued improvement of our global civil infrastructure.

Joining forces

We are constantly looking for opportunities to work with partners dedicated to the same goal. That’s why we are excited to join the Urban Computing Foundation (UFC), a new organization led by Linux and counting Facebook, Google, HERE Technologies, Interline Technologies, Senseable City Labs, and StreetCred Labs. The UCF works to accelerate the open development of software to improve urban mobility, transportation, safety, and infrastructure.

We are honored that the first project to be hosted by the UCF is Kepler.gl, an open source geospatial tool we built and launched in 2018 to help make it easier to create meaningful visualizations of location data without the need for coding. Kepler.gl is used by developers, data scientists, visualization specialists, and engineers around the world to explore and analyze a variety of scenarios that include transportation patterns and safety trends. Some of the companies already using Kepler.gl include Airbnb, Atkins Global, Cityswifter, HERE Technologies, Limebike, Mapbox, Sidewalk Labs, and Uber.

By helping to found and contribute to the Urban Computing Foundation, we’re continuing our efforts to help lead the way toward smarter, human-centered cities. We are excited about this collaboration and look forward to learning and building together.

Want to learn more? Read about Uber’s partnership with the Urban Computing Foundation and donation of Kepler.gl on the Uber Engineering Blog, check out Uber Movement, and try out the rest of our visualization suite.

Uber Design

We are passionate about the pursuit of ideas that put people first. Work with us: uber.com/design. Follow us on Twitter: @DesigningUber.

Uber Design

Written by

Creating great experiences that shape the way people move through the world. Work with us: uber.com/design. Follow us on Twitter: @DesigningUber.

Uber Design

We are passionate about the pursuit of ideas that put people first. Work with us: uber.com/design. Follow us on Twitter: @DesigningUber.

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