Uber director of product Jairam Ranganathan says the ride-hailing company is exploring the use of artificial intelligence to create an assistive onboarding guide for prospective drivers.
“Right now, a lot of this is done through documentation, things that we write, things that we send to them, but we would love to have a much more high-touch experience where people can actually talk to somebody and guide them through the process,” Ranganathan said. “To do that effectively, we believe we need AI to really drive that forward, so that’s one area where we definitely want to invest in going forward.”
He noted that Uber is already using image recognition to scan drivers’ licenses and the documents necessary to onboard a new driver.
Ranganathan spoke onstage today during the second day of Transform, an AI-focused event held by VentureBeat in Mill Valley, California. Uber is also exploring the use of automation in order to handle phone calls or text messages for rides, particularly in parts of the world where smartphones may be common but people prefer making a phone call.
“If you’re talking about a ride that’s $5 and you have to get somebody on the phone, that’s not really effective without having some kind of automation systems that can make that more efficient,” he said.
In his time onstage, Ranganathan shared a slide with an overview of the various ways Uber uses artificial intelligence, from estimates for when Uber Eats food is ready to future locations of bikes or scooters.
At the top of the slide are three major objectives: engagement, acquisition, and customer experience. At the bottom is the core of Uber’s business, Ranganathan said.
“One of the big things we need to do as a company to be successful is really deeply internalize and understand who our customers are and what they care about. This is where we talk about things like segmentation and where we use a lot of auto-clustering techniques,” he said.
Once that foundation is established, Uber may segment customer populations, send surveys to certain users, create targeted advertising, or take other actions.
Understanding, for example, that sometimes parents who are Uber drivers like to complete a few trips before they pick up their kids and segmenting that population gives Uber the opportunity to contact other parents who do the same.
In other recent news, Uber hired a new CFO Tuesday and earlier this week expanded its Uber Freight service for small to medium-sized businesses in order to ship products and move freight in the United States.