Uber as a donation platform
for disaster response
Uber Aid is a platform where individuals can donate urgently required items to disaster relief organizations. Here, Uber drivers act as the essential mediators by handling pick up and drop off of the items requested.
A three-month capstone project with Uber as our official sponsor. The team consisted of two UX designers (including me) and two UX researchers.
I led the ideation & design phase of the cycle which involved prototyping our chosen ideas and effectively communicating our proposed direction to the stakeholders.
Uber page cover
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 scenarios.
  • 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.
Uber divisions
How might Uber utilize current resources and infrastructure
to 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.
Uber secondary research
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:
  1. 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.
  2. Dimensional Analysis: Map the data from competitive analysis on a 2D matrix to get a sense of opportunity gaps as shown below.
Dimensional Analysis
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.
Possible Directions
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:
  1. Uber drivers - Would drivers be willing to pick up people or resources in emergency situations? Also, what is their definition of an emergency situation?
  2. 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 scenario?
  3. 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.
Interview Stats
Driver Empathy Map
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 ideation process.
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.
Uber Aid Concept
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.
Sketches and user flow
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.
Low fidelity prototypes
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 different platforms.
Platform decisions
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.
Visual design
Bob registers the items he wants to donate with Uber Aid.

Mobile prototype
Red Cross, an organization registered with Uber Aid views all the available donations. They make a request for Bob's items.
Mobile prototype
Bob gets notified that Red Cross has requested his items. He accepts the request and schedules a pickup of the items.

Mobile prototype
Mark, a driver with Uber delivers items from Bob to Red Cross.

Mobile prototype
Red Cross can see the status of their request and Mark's location as he delivers the items to them.

Mobile prototype
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.