Mayo Clinic in Florida using self-driving shuttles for tests and medical supplies

Autonomous shuttles are used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests.

Mayo Clinic has announced that it is using autonomous vehicles to safely transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests in Florida. Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has joined hands with two autonomous driving companies i.e. Beep and NAVYA to make the Mayo Clinic in Florida as the first in the U.S. to start using self-driving shuttles to ensure the safe transportation of coronavirus tests and medical supplies to and from patients’ location to the Mayo Clinic labs. 

“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,” said Nathaniel P. Ford, CEO of Jacksonville Transportation Authority. 

Four autonomous shuttles are working from the drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory since March 30, with human-driven SUVs tailing each shuttle to supervise and load/unload sample coolers. 

Joe Moye, The CEO of Beep, told The Verge that the SUVs are moving behind every autonomous shuttle to “ensure no traffic or pedestrians would potentially impact the delivery path of the COVID-19 samples and supplies.”  Mayo Clinic, Beep, and JTA are also monitoring the services from a mobile command center. 

The COVID-19 test samples, stored in secure containers, are then brought to the Mayo Clinic. The innovation seems to increase the safety of Mayo staff who are contributing to this global effort and has helped strengthen the team with community collaboration. 

The CEO of Mayo Clinic, Kent Thielen said in a statement that “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 use of autonomous vehicles, for the safe transportation and handling of COVID-19 samples, sets an example of how self-driving cars can be tuned to current needs, when necessary. 

Etienne Hermite, CEO of NAVYA said in a statement that “The opportunity to work together with these organizations to provide a dedicated COVID-19 testing solution represents our goal as a company, and that’s to create a more accessible solution in the moments that matter, whether that be a crisis, shortage in manpower and resources, or other areas we can provide aid in.” 

Waymo and Uber temporarily suspending their autonomous projects

The coronavirus outbreak has shut almost all the ride-sharing services, including the developing autonomous driving industry. 

Waymo, Google’s self-driving car project, has stopped working on its autonomous vehicle testing amid the potential spread of coronavirus. The company’s decision to shut its operations likely reflects the worst situation in the U.S. due to pandemic resulting in strict travel and working restrictions across all the states. 

Uber, one of the largest multinational ride-hailing company, halted its overall autonomous vehicle operations. The company’s Advanced Technologies Group (ATG) will continue to work from home on projects like Autonomous Visualization System, Uber’s web-based platform for vehicle data, and VerCD, the AI tech powering Uber’s self-driving cars.

READ: Apple donating over 20 million face masks, producing protective face shields to fight against COVID-19
READ: FDA approves Abbott ID NOW test kit that detects COVID-19 in 5 minutes
READ: Elon Musk ships 1,200 ventilators to California hospitals for Coronavirus patients
READ: China lifts 76-day lockdown on Wuhan as city reemerges from coronavirus crisis

Images: Mayo Clinic

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