Ever been stranded on the streets in Lagos with no idea what bus to enter next? Scared to ask for directions before someone takes advantage for you?
Well, those days are gone, and all you now need is an internet connection.
Meet Lara, an artificial intelligence bot that gives you directions via public transportation to and from anywhere in Lagos.
Created by Road Preppers (RP) Technologies, asking Lara for directions feels like you’re talking to a friend of yours, thanks to its messenger-like interface.
Lara makes getting directions to places via public transportation easier, and that was the reason behind its creation, according to RP’s co-founder, Samuel Odeloye.
“It really was about making public transit directions easily accessible to everyone. Increasingly we found that people have a habit of asking friends, family, colleagues, even strangers for direction when they are heading somewhere unfamiliar.” Samuel says.
“Sometimes they’re lucky and get good directions and sometimes, they’re not. We figured if there was someone you could ask for directions, day or night, and get accurate answers, people would use that. So we created Lara.ng to mimic that interaction in a fluid way, And hopefully, the experience feels just as real as when you ask a friend for directions with the addition of feeling comforted by the fact that she’s always available, and she’s always right.”
How does Lara work?
All you have to do is type “I’m going from” your current location and add “to” your destination. That simple.
Seems very easy yeah? That’s the aim of RP, who are dedicated to improving public transportation in Nigeria and Africa at large.
“We’ve been in the space since 2013, on a Mission to help people : Plan. Commute. Connect better on their trips,” Odeloye says.
“We have since observed that the public transportation sector in Africa is highly segmented and fraught with corruption. Whether you’re taking a Matatu in Kenya, a Danfo in Nigeria or Boda Boda in Uganda, getting proper directions or fare estimates,while trying to get from point A to B is a problem.
“RP has been able to develop a systematic approach to collecting that data, sorting and delivering it to its audience in a format that’s easily accessible and interactive.”
Lara.ng is not perfect yet, and there are many things that can be improved upon or added, such as adding alternate routes and improving estimated pricing and directions.
That said, it’s made a very promising start, with the website already in the top 10,000 viewed websites in Nigeria, per Alexa. RP is already planning to improve Lara, as well as extend her coverage well beyond Lagos.
“We’d say our focus is on making Lara pretty good at giving people directions.,” Odeloye adds. “We want her to be almost perfect at doing that and beyond. We have some really interesting functionalities in the build. However, we’ve got to admit it, that would be an interesting discussion to have.Till then we’re a focussed on our users needs, and improving Lara.”
He also says that Lara’s uses may grow well beyond just giving directions as she expands.
“We simply go to where there’s high user demand. Mid last year we mapped out the same service for Abuja & FCT because on the backend we kept getting tons of directions request in that region. Other places we have seen with similar high user demand include; Port Harcourt, Enugu, Ibadan, Kaduna.”
“I’d say the future is promising, The problem statement we are addressing is not limited to Africa also applicable to some parts of latin America & Asia so there is potential for Lara in these places.”
“Beyond geographical coverage, we see Lara as an agent people could come to trust to solve their daily needs, there might be an opportunity for her to address more needs beyond her current scope, that too is looking very promising.”
Impressed by Lara? Visit Lara.ng and check it out!