In a country like Nigeria, routes need to be clearly defined, traffic needs to be well organized, and all other conditions necessary to aid commuters in finding their desired locations within the country need to be in place. However, this is clearly not the case.
In Lagos for example, there is probably a considerable amount of Lagosians who can attest to how difficult it can be to get around. From overzealous ‘good Samaritans’ who end up giving wrong directions, to the poor condition of public transportation in the state, one can only fall back on an alternative option – a bot or automaton of some sort which will always be reliable, and accurate in giving out directions to travelers. The answer lies in Lara.ng; a chatbot which is built on new technologies like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Language to enable the average Lagosian to navigate through Lagos without getting lost.
Three Friends On A Mission To Improve Lagos’ Navigation System
It all started in 2012 when Samuel Odeloye, the CEO of Lara.ng, was on a flight from New York to London and got into an insightful chat with a fellow passenger about the transport network in London. Through the discussion, he discovered that London had an advanced road network and transport system replete with concrete information at every point. With this data at their disposal, the UK government could understand how commuters interfaced with transport infrastructure and create a better experience for them.
This was a paradigm shift for Odeloye who was used to the disorganized transport system in Lagos. As a result, he figured that if he could apply this same model used in London to better understand the patterns in public transportation and mobility, he could come up with a solution that would make getting around Lagos seamless. He went on to partner with two friends Opeoluwa Bada who emerged CTO but later resigned and Nnamdi Nwanze, a software engineer and together they created MyRP, a service that offered transit and public transport directions.
Building On Data
In their bid to make MyRP a reality, they set out acquiring data just about every transit route, local rates, bus stops, vehicle types and every key feature that could provide useful information. According to Odeloye, the data they gathered would play a significant role in building Lara.ng. MyRp was launched in 2014 and established to have up to 12000 social media followers and 1500 signups on the web app. But the service provided no revenue and as a result, the founders sought a way to eliminate this challenge.
After experimenting with different models and having a profound meeting with a mentor at iDEA hub, they decided to take a different approach. And by the end of 2016, MyRP had become a thing of the past. With all the data they had gathered while running MyRP, Odeloye, Nwanze, and a new co-founder, Ladi Ojora, launched Lara.ng in 2017. Like MyRP, Lara offers public transit and driving directions but it is a more sophisticated service developed with machine language, artificial intelligence, and a directions layer.
Giving Google Maps A Run For Its Money
Most stranded travelers have always relied on Google Maps for directions even before Lara.ng came into the scene. In fact, Google Maps has played a major role in the success of most ride-hailing services like Uber, Taxify, and others. However, it falls short in a mazy city like Lagos; the complicated road network coupled with the traffic and transit conditions hamper the efficacy of this service. This is where an indigenous service like Lara comes in with its “knowledge” about the inner workings of the transportation system in Lagos.
Lara is an artificial intelligence chatbot which has an interface similar to Whatsapp.Users are to interact with Lara as they would with any other individual on Whatsapp. They can type in their destinations in the following format “From Obalende, Lagos to Ajah Bus Stop” and Lara will automatically reply with directions, price estimates, and length of the journey. In a way, Lara can be said to be tailor-made for Lagos but the founders already have mapped out plans to extend the service to cities like Kaduna, Port Harcourt, Kano and Ibadan.