The Mayo Clinic in Florida is using driverless shuttles to transport COVID-19 tests from a drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory on campus.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) partnered with Beep, an autonomous shuttle fleet service provider, and autonomous shuttle developer NAVYA to deploy the vehicles, according to a news release. Up to four autonomous vehicles can operate on the route—in full autonomous mode without any people on board. The test samples are put in secure containers before health care professionals load the samples onto the shuttle.
“During a time of rapid change and uncertainty, the ability to think innovatively alongside the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, NAVYA, and Beep during the pandemic has strengthened all of our teams through community collaboration,” said Mayo Clinic in Florida CEO Kent Thielen, M.D., according to the release “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.”
Beep transported the shuttles through Eagle Express Inc. from Lake Nona, Florida, about 150 miles from the company’s headquarters in Orlando. An additional shuttle from JTA’s Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) program also has been deployed.
The routes the vehicles travel are isolated from pedestrians, traffic and staff. To ensure safe operation, Beep, Mayo Clinic and JTA will closely monitor the service from a mobile command center.
“This deployment is a historic moment for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority,” JTA CEO Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. said, according to the release. “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. Our innovative team saw this as an opportunity to use technology to respond to this crisis in Northeast Florida and increase the safety of COVID-19 testing.”