To an extent, the success of Uber, Taxify and other ride hailing businesses are partly sponsored by the efficacy of the behemoth mapping service called Google Maps.
Since it launched on February 8, 2005, Google Maps had been updated with different features: street view, 3D view, time travel, save your parking, SOS Alert, create your map; and soon-to-be-released augmented reality (AR) street view, which was announced at the Google I/O 2018 developer conference on May 8.
Google Maps is available in over 220 countries and territories with transit directions included for over 15,000 major cities around the world. It is accessible via the web or mobile app, and like me, most people use the mobile app. For the month of April 2018, the app had 154.4 million unique users in the US alone, according to Statista. Arguably, it is the most popular and most used mapping app in the world.
And because our android phones are preloaded with Google Maps, we could be beguiled to believe that it is the only mapping app that exist. No, it’s not. There are other mapping apps, and some of them are: Waze (which has been bought by Google but the Waze app is still available on Playstore), Nokia’s Here Maps (adjudged the closet alternative to Google Maps), MapQuest Navigation & Maps, MAPS.ME, Scout GPS, Yahoo! Maps, Apple Maps, etc.
But this article is not about Google Maps; it is about lara.ng: the ‘Google Maps’ by Lagosians for Lagosians.
Lara.ng: the ‘Google Maps’ by Lagosians for Lagosians
In a city such as Abuja, where I did my one-year National Youth Service, Google Maps is very effective. All thanks to the relatively good road network. It covers both the popular and obscure places pretty well. From Wuse city centres to the hinterlands of Deidei, Google Maps saved me from going AWOL and MIA.
I can only wish to say the same about its performance in Lagos.
The road network in Lagos, both the supposed mainland ghetto and highbrow island, is nothing compared to Abuja. Traffic jam is the rule, and a free-flow of traffic is an exception.
Considering these and other realities, I settled for ‘jumping yellow buses (danfo)’ Coupled with the wariness of asking strangers questions, that decision exposed me to getting swindled by ‘danfo’ drivers and (God forbid) getting lost.
Lara.ng: AI for Public Transport Transit Directions and Fare Quotes
Lara.ng, which herein is referred to as Lara, is an artificial intelligence (AI) transport bot. (And for those not familiar with AI and chat bot) rest assured, she is neither an alien nor human.
In order to mitigate the downside of my resolve, I would ask my friend, Bisola, for directions and the fare quotes. Bisola grew up in Lagos, and she’s quite familiar with the routes even as numerous road construction projects have altered the landscape of some places in Lagos. And she did a good job as my unofficial tour guide until I met Lara.
As a millennial, there are two ways to solve a problem: you either google it or pray about it. In this case, I opted for the former.
While surfing the net one fateful day, I met Lara.
Lara is that friend you can call (in my case Bisola) for directions and fare quotes to unfamiliar places.
She, Lara, gives public transit directions and fare quotes, majorly commuters or ‘JJC’ (like me) in Lagos. And Lara, unlike Bisola, is available 24/7 and won’t bombard you with a myriad of questions about your destination (if you know what I mean).
Lara uses a design similar to WhatsApp. Chatting with her to chart the course of your journey is so simple, easy and interesting.
You can just type from “your location” to “your destination” and she would respond with correct directions including names of obscure bus-stops and fare quotes.
It also adds ride sharing alternative, which allows you to book either Uber or Taxify.
Meet the ‘Parents’ of Lara
Lara is the brainchild of Samuel Odeloye, Nnamdi Nwanze and Ladi Ojora – the RoadPreppers team.
Samuel Odeloye, CEO of RP Technologies Ltd, Lara’s parent company, is a former oil and gas expert; Nnamdi Nwanze, the Chief Technology Officer, is a security specialist and Ladi Ojora, Chief Operating Officer, is an ex-construction professional; these three Lagosians launched Lara on March 5, 2017.
Lara.ng, according to Ladi, would soon be “available on Facebook Messenger because easy accessibility to her users is major priority for Lara.”
Lara is not their first child though, they had previously birthed Accessible via myrp.ng, a web-based, trip planner and application that gives users access to driving and transit direction via map interface; and the RP API which allows anyone to add an interactive map with directions to their websites.
This article is not a sponsored or solicited post. This is the least I can do to show my gratitude to the trio for creating such a life saver for Lagos ‘JJC’ like me.
In addition to that, word-of-mouth has been the lifeline of Lara, therefore, I decided to add my voice too.
Do check out Lara.ng, today, tell your friends to do same; and share your experience in the comment section.