A lot of people have issues getting around in a new place, and they’re short of options of how and where to get directions to do so. With the wariness of talking to strangers and the innate distrust of Google Maps, the public transportation system in Lagos is a true mystery.
The RoadPreppers team - Samuel Adeoye, Nnamdi Nwanze and Ladi Ojora - decided to do something to fix this. Enter Lara.ng, an AI for public transportation directions and fare quotes. She’s like that friend you call on, when you find yourself lost in an unfamiliar place or better still, before you leave for an unfamiliar place. Lara gives users public transit directions to her users on-demand, 24/7.
Samuel, a former oil and gas expert; Ladi, an ex-construction professional and Nnamdi, a security specialist came together to build this platform in October 2016 because they figured if there was someone you could ask those questions, day or night, and get accurate answers, your life would be made significantly more comfortable.
They hope the experience feels just as real as when you ask a friend for directions, but you're comforted by the fact that she's always available, and she's always right. Speaking with Konbini about the inspiration behind the product, Samuel, CEO of RP Technologies Ltd. (Lara's parent company), said:
"It was about making public transit directions easily accessible to anyone. Increasingly we found that people have a habit of asking friends, family, colleagues, even strangers for direction when they are heading somewhere unfamiliar."
"Sometimes they’re lucky and get good directions but often times, they’re not."
This is not their first experience with a transport platform, the trio previously built Accessible via myrp.ng, a web-based, trip planner application that gives its users access to driving and transit directions via a map interface; and the RP API which allows anyone to add an interactive map with directions to their websites.
According to Samuel, Lara was initially launched on WhatsApp and it was was an instant hit, But Lara got blocked after less than a week of being live, so they moved Lara online to where she now resides on Lara.ng, with the same familiar WhatsApp interface.
About their future plans for Lara, Samuel said:
"We let our users guide what the next direction for Lara will be. Already we're getting requests from users to have Lara do a lot more. Most of which are being considered, although not all - you'll be surprised to learn what people ask a bot to do in private."
"Nevertheless, our focus is on getting Lara to give accurate directions to her users everywhere, starting in Lagos, and spreading geographically to other cities."
The RoadPreppers team are focused on making Lara.ng everyone's most reliable companion for getting around - beyond Nigeria, and into many developing countries.
Go on, ask Lara!