Road safety app sends security guards to broken down vehicles in Caracas

World Today

A vehicle breakdown is always a headache, and in Caracas, it can be a real danger. Some reports rank Venezuela’s capital as the second most dangerous city in the world.

But as CGTN’s Stephen Gibbs reports, a new type of road-side assistance is providing some much-needed protection.

They call it “Pana.” That’s Venezuelan slang for “buddy.” It’s a twist on the standard, breakdown recovery service, and tailor-made for the troubled city.

The idea is simple. If your car breaks down in Caracas, two motorcycle security guards will be dispatched to protect you, until the problem is fixed.

The company was launched last year by two entrepreneurs. Their workplace concept takes some cues from Silicon Valley. However, running a start up in Venezuela in the midst of an economic collapse has its unique challenges.

“Many things are against you. Low speed internet, difficult highways and roads, security, lights – or the electricity in the cities. The topography is different. So if you can make it here, you can make in anywhere,” Co-founder Juan Cristobal Coronil said.

Users pay an annual fee for the service. It’s the equivalent of just a few dollars a year. In an emergency, you press one button on the app and help is on the way.

“When we developed this one thing was the user experience: it is going to be simple, and fast,” Coronil said.

CGTN followed Pana’s security team on an emergency call-out. Caracas is currently ranked as the world’s most dangerous capital, and it has its fair share of road accidents too.

One woman’s car had broken down on one of the main motorways through the city.

“This is my second time. My car is actually having some problems. We haven’t found out yet what it is. I would have, you know, walked and left my car here.”

In the city, carjacking is so commonplace, some people think it’s safer to walk home if your vehicle breaks down than wait for help.

The creators of this app say they can get help anywhere in Caracas within 20 minutes.