Autonomous shuttles help transport COVID-19 tests from a Jacksonville, Florida testing site to a nearby Mayo Clinic processing location. For the first time in the U.S., autonomous vehicles help move medical supplies.
On each trip to and from the clinic, human drivers trail the self-driving shuttles.
The SUV makes an appearance in a video released by the Mayo Clinic. A Mayo Clinic worker loads the cooler of tests onto the self-driving shuttle then the SUV follows the shuttle. That is where the batch of fresh tests were swapped for another cooler.
Nathaniel P. Ford, Sr., CEO of JTA said this development is a historic moment for the JTA.
Along with their partners, Beep, NAVYA and Mayo Clinic, they leverage their learnings from three years of testing autonomous vehicles. That is through their Ultimate Urban Circulator program.
Their innovative team saw this as an opportunity to use technology to respond to this crisis in Northeast Florida. This also increases the safety of COVID-19 testing, he added.
Driver Supervise Self-driving Vehicles
Four of these autonomous shuttles have been running back and forth since March 30th, operating along an initial route. They were fully autonomous without attendants or other people onboard. However, humans driving regular cars shadow each shuttle. These vehicles aimed to make human drivers obsolete.
But COVID-19 has exposed how a technology designed to be human-free still relies on the human workforce at almost every level. The fate of human backup drivers who ride around the vehicles is less certain.
JTA provided these to ensure no traffic or pedestrians would potentially impact the delivery path of COVID-19 samples and supplies. The Mayo Clinic said the shuttles run isolated routes so no pedestrians, traffic and staff face danger.
Kent Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida said using artificial intelligence enables them to protect their staff. Moreover, it helps protect them from exposure to this contagious virus by using cutting-edge autonomous vehicle technology.
It also frees up staff time. Allowing them to dedicated time to direct treatment and care for patients.
Furthermore, they are grateful to JTA, Beep and NAVYA for their partnership in these challenging times, he added.
Working with Partners
Jacksonville Transportation Authority has partnered with Beep and NAVYA to use autonomous vehicles to safely transport COVID-19 tests collected.
The JTA is an independent agency of the state of Florida, serving Duval County, with multi-modal responsibilities.
Joe Moye, CEO of Beep said Mayo Clinic is known as a leader in innovation and technology. It is a provider of world-class health care services to their patients in so many areas of medicine.
Beep is an autonomous shuttle fleet service provider which transported the shuttles through Eagle Express, Inc., from Lake Nona, Florida. Experienced fleet managers and technology entrepreneurs founded Beep.
NAVYA is a leading specialist in the supply of autonomous driving systems for passenger and goods transport. It is a top French name in autonomous driving systems with over 280 employees in France and in the U.S.
The opportunity to work together in an effort to provide a dedicated COVID-19 testing solution represents their goal. 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 said Étienne Hermite, CEO of NAVYA.