What tech mechanisms Uber is using for steadfast ride in India


India has been a key talent hub for Uber. The company’s muscle with tech expertise and operational excellence has attracted several key global charters to be set up and growing from India. Many of the innovations initiated from India have been scaled globally. The company looks ahead to continue to invest in the India tech sites and grow some of its global engineering and product initiatives from here. Megha Yethadka, Director, Program Management, Tech at Uber, talks more about the initiatives within Uber GSS ecosystem and more as the company pegs on further tech investments. Excerpts.

What constitutes the Uber GSS ecosystem? Please explain about the initiatives taken.

Uber Global Scaled Solutions (GSS) runs scaled programs for multiple Uber products and businesses including Rides, Eats, Freight, Advanced technologies and micro mobility. GSS is a team responsible for transforming Uber’s best ideas into agile, global solutions.

GSS accelerates/enables tech and innovation at Uber through focus on 3 domains:

  • Digitisation: Converts anything in the physical world to a digital asset for Uber, enabling our products and businesses. Examples are map editing, menu digitisation, machine learning operations to enable AI efforts, etc.
  • Product Development Services: Accelerates product dev lifecycle for both software and hardware, including services such as testing/QA, data analytics, engineering services, API integrations, etc.
  • Globalisation: Enables our products and businesses to scale globally and make them feel local to everyone, everywhere. The team makes our app available in 46+ languages.

Eighty percent of the GSS team is based out of Hyderabad and Bangalore, consisting of 100+ program managers, engineers, analysts and product managers.

Our engineers and tech program managers across countries have been working relentlessly to address the emerging challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak. From creating new products to launching new business units quickly, the Uber tech team has been steering varied technology innovations enabling Uber to rapidly cater to the needs of cities and citizens around the world. GSS has helped accelerate these efforts from our hubs in Hyderabad and Bangalore.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Uber India’s Global Scaled Solutions (GSS) team based out of Hyderabad and Bangalore led map updates across more than 150 cities globally through the recent lockdowns, factoring in road closures, new routes and containment zones.

Over and above this, we create training data sets for autonomous vehicles division and for AI/ML efforts across the company. Our quality and efficiency are best in class. The team has undertaken automation of several of our risk and fraud flows.

We enable third parties to integrate with Uber platforms. For example, we integrated identity verification providers globally, and enabled restaurants to integrate point of sale. We supported user generated input and received/acted on millions of customer feedback on Maps through a combination of automation and manual fixes. Also, we run sanity testing for most Uber apps and ensure high quality experiences for our customers. We run deep analytics, data engineering and engineering services projects for multiple areas.

“GSS-transforming novel ideas into workable solutions in a time sensitive manner by leveraging innovative technologies”- please explain with examples?

The GSS team has been at the forefront of transforming novel ideas into workable solutions in a time sensitive manner by leveraging innovative technologies. The team led 200+ localisation projects that included in-app messages in local languages to keep the rider and driver community informed and updated about new offerings, closure of services, safety guidelines and various earning opportunities and financial assistance for drivers.

Even as many parts of cities have been quarantined, the team ensured that maps across cities around the world were updated and constantly modified on the basis of the dynamic list of containment zones to better identify and service availability

The team has enabled safety solutions such as mask detection through machine learning operations. As the world adjusts to the new normal, masks will be a reality. Uber Safety team has developed a mask detection feature. Our new technology will verify if the driver is wearing a mask by asking them to take a selfie. After we verify the driver is covering their face, we’ll let the rider know via an in-app message. (Unlike our Real-Time ID Check system, this technology detects the mask as an object in the photo or compare mask selfies to driver photos in our database). GSS supported the data collection and training dataset creation effort.

It helped improve product launches and adoption through data engineering and analytics programs. It runs and scales QA for all products and features launched globally, from India.

This team uses advanced computer vision, automation, Machine Learning (ML), Optical character recognition (OCR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques to seamlessly onboard restaurant menus to the Uber marketplace.

For varied operational needs across Uber, we build platform solutions and tooling. That ranges from customised labelling platform to task orchestration, diagnostic tools to data curation.

The GSS team also paced digital payment integrations in some of the markets to enable social distancing measures.

Who are the partners/vendors whom Uber has (or is planning to) onboarded for the GSS initiative?

Currently, we have 100+ tech program managers, analysts and engineers. 80% of the GSS team is based out of our Bangalore and Hyderabad centres. These are the bright minds responsible for all the innovation. We work with product teams and charters across the Uber ecosystem globally.

What kind of cutting-edge or emerging technologies are you using for seamless operations and propel GSS? Please cite use cases 

This team uses advanced computer vision, automation, Machine Learning (ML), Optical character recognition (OCR), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques, NLP, Computer vision that help us in fraud detection, document processing, maps editing, machine translations, QA, etc.

We have built a rapid tool development framework that has enabled us to build customised tools for various needs in a matter of days to weeks.

Please shed light on your GTM and your future plans.

As we move towards recovery, technology would continue to reinvent the platform for the new normal and safety is our top most priority. As the pandemic continues to impact many parts of the world, the tech team will continue supporting emerging business requirements. As we speak, we are moving hardware and firmware work to India which will be led by the GSS team.  We are also scaling engineering for tools and platform development, risk investigations and rule writing, machine learning operations in GSS India.


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