The Mayo Clinic collaborated with Beep and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) to deploy self-driving shuttles to deliver medical supplies and COVID-19 tests from a site at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville to another building on the campus. The wish is that they'll expedite the delivery of much-needed components while reducing the chance of human exposure to the coronavirus.

Beep Mobility
(Photo : Beep Mobility)

Self-automated shuttles to protect staff from coronavirus

While healthcare sources and personnel are stretched thin, the companies took the opportunity to use technology to respond to this crisis and increase the safety of COVID-19 testing.

"Using artificial intelligence enables us to protect staff from exposure to the contagious virus by using [modern] autonomous vehicle technology, Kent Thielen, M.D., CEO of Mayo Clinic, said. He added the opportunity would up staff time that can be dedicated to direct treatment and care for patients.

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The JTA, Beep, NAVYA, and Bestmile teams partnered to create, check and launch the routes for the self-driving vehicles at Mayo Clinic in Florida to cope with the fluid trends of the COVID-19 pandemic. The self-driving shuttles are separated from pedestrians, site visitors, and personnel. Beep, Mayo Clinic, and the JTA will closely monitor the operations of the shuttle from a command center to keep safe operation.

"During a time of rapid change and uncertainty, the ability to think innovatively alongside the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, NAVYA, and Beep during the pandemic have strengthened all of our teams through community collaboration," Thielen added.

A historic moment

JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. said the team collaboration is "a historic moment" for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. He added the innovative team saw this situation as an opportunity to use technology to respond to this crisis in Northeast Florida and increase the safety of COVID-19 testing.

Joe Moye, CEO of Beep, said bringing the innovative solution to support other companies during this critical challenge facing our country is a "humbling" and "exciting" experience.

Mayo Clinic, Moye noted, is known as a leader in innovation and technology for providing world-class healthcare services to their patients in so many essential areas of medicine.

"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," said Étienne Hermite, CEO of NAVYA.

Beep, an independent trip fleet carrier service, transported the shuttles through Eagle Express Inc. from Lake Nona, Florida, an innovation hub 150 miles away from where the office is established in Orlando, Florida. The JTA has actively tested AV technology since 2017 to prepare a conversion and expansion of its Skyway automated people mover in Downtown Jacksonville into a network powered by autonomous vehicles. 

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Since March 30, 2020, up to four autonomous shuttles started operating at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, in a full autonomous mode without attendants or other humans onboard to send COVID-19 tests from a drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory on Mayo Clinic campus. The COVID-19 tests will be place in secure containers prior to Mayo Clinic healthcare experts loading the samples on the shuttle. 

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