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Which Navigation Application Do You Prefer?

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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Ride-share drivers have unique needs when it comes to getting directions. Uber's own navigation functionality (UNav) is built-into the driver-App. Limited online help is here. Lyft and most other Uber competitors have no equivalent built-in navigation, using the same two external navigation Apps, Waze and Google Maps (Maps).


On March 15 2017, Uber's own navigation was announced for limited distribution here. Over the next few months it was rolled out nationwide.

In June 2013, Waze was acquired by Google according to this. However, Google decided to separately maintain the two navigation Apps.

Design Philosophy

Based on statements Uber made to the media, UNav was designed with specific goals incorporating Uber drivers different needs from the general public, like UberPool. UberPool might include several overlapping trips, or alternating passenger pickups and dropoffs, which an app like Google Maps isn't designed for. Uber's new mapping app, on the other hand, can now update the route in real time, requiring less app switching and fewer distractions for the driver - and thus, an increase in safety.

UNav is meant to have a seamless, integrated experience. Drivers don't have to switch back and forth between apps, losing context on the way. An Uber Engineering Case Study is here.

Stringing multiple rides together, where a driver already has another rider scheduled before he's finished dropping off the first, is made easier too because the app shows a preview of the next turn even before the dropoff is made. A "waiting for rider" mode does the same thing, allowing the driver to figure out what lane they'll need to be in ahead of time.

Future changes may include: real-time traffic, lane guidance, and night mode. Custom directions to the ride-share area of Airport terminals. Specific UberEATS parking spots at restaurants for delivery drivers as destinations.


The most important part of a navigation application is its database of roads and ability to react quickly to changing traffic conditions. UNav uses a blend of in-house and third-party provided data. Uber has its own fleet of street-mapping cars, but these are meant predominantly to help its future self-driving vehicles. Uber Nav pulls GPS data from several systems, like Google Maps, Bing Maps, and TomTom, for a more comprehensive navigation experience. This means less chance of mess-ups from the navigation system, even in city driving. The biggest supplier is TomTom, which first partnered with Uber in November 2015.


There are many differences between UNav, Waze and Maps. Here are a few.

UNav is internal navigation software, designed to be used along with the Uber driver-App, unlike the 2 other navigation choices, external applications Waze and Maps, which may be installed from Google-Play (for Android phone) or the Apple Store (for iPhone).

There is no way to activate UNav on demand, unlike Waze and Maps. UNav does not access the Waze network of drivers for realtime information including reports of traffic, police activity, hazards, etc. UNav only has Routing for driving. Maps also has Routing for Biking and Walking. Waze and Maps have several selectable voices, but UNav only has one.

Waze allows dynamically changing the destination by touching the screen and dragging the current destination pointer to a new location. Waze optionally
  • Displays your current speed and the speed limit.
  • Offers alternative routing choices to avoid tolls, freeways, ferries, dirt roads, and "difficult" intersections.
  • Prioritizes fastest or shortest route.
  • Dynamically moves North to maximize the amount of route displayed.
  • Saves multiple "favorite" destinations and "remembers" recent destinations.
  • If you have an SD-card installed then Waze can use it, saving considerable phone memory.


Unlike the 2 external applications, Waze and Maps, there are very few settings. :( You many reach these by tapping Help > Settings > Navigation. They may be accessed only when not on a trip.

The settings screen is divided into 2 sections. On the Top, selection of the Navigation Provider. On the bottom, "utility-specific" Navigation Settings.

For selection of the navigation utility, you will only see Waze or Maps if they have been installed on your phone. Limited online help from Uber is here. To use UNav, select it by tapping the check-box to the right. You may notice the choices in the bottom of the screen (Navigation Settings) changing.

Navigation Setting are on the bottom of the Settings screen. There are currently only 2 choices for UNav.

Auto Navigate is the ONLY unique choice for UNav. Switching to either of the the 2 external applications (Waze & Maps) must be done externally. Switch to the selected navigation provider manually (if you have not selected "Auto-navigate") by tapping the word "Navigate" in the lower-left portion of the screen after accepting a request.

Night Mode is available for all 3 navigation applications (UNav, Waze & Maps). Night Mode has 3 settings Automatic (recommended default), Always on, and Always off.

User Interface (over-large dynamic-GIF here)

The User Interface (UI) is designed to be highly intuitive and be usable without first reading a users manual. There are strong similarities to both Waze and Maps, but distinct differences, too. Limited online help from Uber is here.

Limited online help is here. There is only one voice, which is suppressed when you switch to any other application. To toggle in app navigation sound On and Off, tap the speaker icon on the navigation screen. The volume is controlled using the volume control on the phone.

Route Preview gives you a quick look at your next trip before the navigation begins. Note: Route Preview may not be available on all devices.

Lane Guidance tells you what the best lane is for your route before you make the turn.

On Route Traffic shows you the traffic along your route. Yellow means there is some traffic and red means traffic is heavy.

Picking Up Riders
Limited online help is here. Rider location sharing is here.
Riders are notified by their app when your vehicle is about one minute away from the pickup location. If you cannot locate each other immediately after you arrive, use your app to call or send a text SMS to let the rider know you're at the pickup location.

Try to approach the pickup location on the same side of the street as the rider's icon. Traffic can make it dangerous for riders to cross the street to meet you. If you're unable to approach the pickup location on the right side of the street, you can contact the rider to confirm. Always follow the rules of the road. Avoid violating traffic laws.

When a rider disputes directions given by UNav (or any other navigation software), it's strongly suggested to immediately take the rider's directions over UNav or even your own experience, unless the rider suggests doing something dangerous or illegal. You may wish to ask riders after entering the car if they would prefer giving you the route.


Many drivers have complained that UNav:
  • Appears to choose the shortest distance (least profitable) even if slower, not the highest mileage (more profitable) that is also close to the fastest.
  • Gives inaccurate directions at the start of a trip.
  • Random freezes and aborts during a trip, requiring reload that may take minutes.
Pros: quick access to your navigation without having to switch between apps, since it's already build into the Uber app you'll be using.

Cons: issues in the past with functionality, especially when navigating congested areas.


There are many features not covered by this brief description. For additional ways to utilize UNav, you my want to review the extensive online documentation for Waze (here and there) and Maps. Then try those features in UNav and see what works for you.

Related Threads

Please reply to this thread if you find any errors or useful functionality that is not already mentioned above.

1 Posts
The most common problem , in Chicago, with all navigation systems is that they consider an ALLEY as a normal street. But in Chicago, Alleys are for garbage cans and garage entrance. Most of the alleys are in bad conditions: dark, debris, gang activity, potholes, etc. So, the navigation systems need to do something about. alleys are alleys no streets here in Chicago

243 Posts
Good writeup. I have no choice but to avoid UNav in some areas because it is several months behind in noting crucial construction closures and traffic pattern changes. Waze adapts much faster.

1,608 Posts
Waze, but I'll be moving to google soon because waze's ads are ridiculous.

UNav is unusable. It's not actually an option IMO. It messes up directions so much it is not a practical alternative to the other two.
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