Autonomous Shuttles Move Coronavirus Tests at Florida Clinic

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The Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida is using autonomous vehicles to transport coronavirus tests to reduce person-to-person contact. “Beep-mobiles” developed by NAVYA, use GPS and LIDAR to navigate the road. Some 700 people are tested at the clinic each day, reports Fox News.

A health care worker administers the swab test, then places the sample in a cooler. When the cooler is full, the nurse places it in the autonomous vehicle. The Beep-mobile drives the samples across campus to a lab. There, another hospital worker retrieves the cooler and brings the samples inside for analysis. The system enables health care workers to reduce their risk of contracting the virus, according to the account. They are trailed by an SUV with a human driver who monitors the deliveries to assure there are no glitches.  

NAVYA is a French company that has been making shuttle buses equipped with lidar, radar and video cameras that can navigate up to 15 passengers at a time in non-pandemic conditions. Some of their buses have been operating in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Las Vegas since 2017, reports Forbes.

“Using artificial intelligence enables us to protect staff from exposure to this contagious virus by using autonomous vehicle technology, and frees up staff time that can be dedicated to direct treatment and care for patients,” said Dr. Kent Thielen, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Florida. His colleague, Dr. Charles Bruce, adds: “It’s being able to embrace technology, taking machine learning and artificial intelligence and harnessing it for good to see how we can actually apply it, to the betterment of everybody.”

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is partnering with Beep and NAVYA on the pilot project. The JTA has been testing these autonomous vehicles for the past three years. It was the JTA’s idea to use the vehicles to help those who are helping the public. The clinic embraced the driverless delivery concept. It’s been working so well that doctors are now finding other ways to use these autonomous vehicles and will likely continue to do so in the future, according to Fox.

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