Mayo Clinic has begun using driverless vehicles to deliver essential COVID-19 tests to a processing lab.
The initiative in Jacksonville, Florida is a collaboration between the local transport authority, Navya, and Beep.
Four autonomous vehicles are initially being used and will transport COVID-19 tests from a drive-through testing facility to a processing lab on Mayo Clinic’s campus. The shuttles have been running the route every day since March 30th.
One of the shuttles is being provided by the Jacksonville Transport Authority which has been testing driverless vehicles since 2017 to prepare for an expansion of its Jacksonville Skyway automated people mover.
“This development is a historic moment for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority,” says Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority.
“Along with our partners, Beep, NAVYA and Mayo Clinic, we are leveraging our learnings from three years of testing autonomous vehicles through our Ultimate Urban Circulator program.”
The use of driverless vehicles helps to reduce the likelihood of vital equipment being contaminated.
Kent Thielen, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida, says: “Using artificial intelligence enables us to protect staff from exposure to this contagious virus by using cutting-edge autonomous vehicle technology and frees up staff time that can be dedicated to direct treatment and care for patients. We are grateful to JTA, Beep, and NAVYA for their partnership in these challenging times.”
The partners created and tested routes for the service that are isolated from other traffic and pedestrians.
Unfortunately, there are limitations to the current deployment. The shuttles are followed by a human in an SUV to ensure the safety of the operation.
For now, the trial offers a promising early look at how future driverless vehicles can quickly be adapted to help out during unforeseeable moments of crisis without putting more people at risk.
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