Big Data

Uber and Google team up to get voters to the polls on election day

On Friday, days before the US presidential election on November 8, Uber said it wants to help increase voter turnout by offering an in-app feature that helps bring riders to their polling locations.

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Image: Uber


Do you need a ride to the polls for US election day next Tuesday, November 8? Or are you unsure of where your polling location is?

You're in luck—on Friday, Uber announced a partnership with Google, using big data and machine learning, that resulted in an in-app Uber feature that helps Americans find out where they need to go to vote.

According to the release, it's an attempt "to help drive voter turnout." The announcement follows a recent statement by Uber, made on national voter registration day, that it would like "to encourage all riders and drivers, regardless of political party, to register to vote."

The feature, which will go live on November 8, includes a notification to app users that it's election day. It offers a way for Uber-riders to find their polling location, by pushing "Find Your Polling Place." This feature uses a Google API widget, which will direct users to the correct polling location based on their address. And then, riders can request a lift to the polls with one click by clicking "Uber to Your Polling Place."

If you're new to Uber, and want to sign up for an account, you can use code "VOTETODAY" for $20 off the first ride.

And, if you're an organization that would like to encourage employees to vote, or a group that is trying to increase voter turnout, you can also donate rides through the UberEVENTS feature. This allows businesses to purchase rides and then distribute a code to those they want to use it.

Graham Shelby, a writer in Louisville, KY, has never Ubered before. He said the initiative "looks great," and helps him "feel better about Uber as an entity."

SEE: How data and machine learning are 'part of Uber's DNA' (TechRepublic)

Others agree that this is an important step forward in helping provide information to voters.

"I commend Uber and Google for their engagement with the electoral process," said Vincent Conitzer, professor of computer science at Duke University. "Of course, it remains important to make this information easily available elsewhere, because not everyone has access to this app. But the more ways there are to find one's polling place, the better."

Susan Schneider, associate professor at the University of Connecticut, thinks it's a "wonderful example of how information processing technology can be used to improve people's lives, and empower voters who may otherwise have trouble voting. This is a close election, and every vote counts!"

It should also be noted that Lyft, Uber's primary competition, has joined super PAC My Ride to Vote and Voto Latino to get more people to the polls.

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About Hope Reese

Hope Reese is a Staff Writer for TechRepublic. She covers the intersection of technology and society, examining the people and ideas that transform how we live today.

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