JTA, Beep, and NAVYA autonomous shuttles help transport COVID-19 tests
For the first reported time in the U.S., autonomous vehicles are being used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests at Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has partnered with Beep and NAVYA to use autonomous vehicles to facilitate the safe transport of these tests collected at a drive-thru testing location at the clinic.
"This deployment is a historic moment for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority," said JTA Chief Executive Officer Nathaniel P. Ford Sr. "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."
On Monday, March 30, 2020, up to four autonomous vehicles began operating along an initial route, in full autonomous mode without attendants or other people onboard, to transport the tests from a drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory on the campus. The samples are placed in secure containers prior to healthcare professionals loading them 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 Kent Thielen, M.D., CEO, Mayo Clinic in Florida. "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 JTA, Beep, NAVYA, and Bestmile teams partnered to create, test, and deploy the routes for the autonomous vehicles at the campus to address the fluid developments of the pandemic. The routes are isolated from pedestrians, traffic, and staff. Beep, Mayo Clinic, and the JTA will closely monitor the service from a mobile command center to maintain safe operation.
Beep, an autonomous shuttle fleet service provider, transported the shuttles through Eagle Express Inc. from Lake Nona, FL, an innovation hub 150 miles away where the company is headquartered in Orlando, FL. An additional shuttle is being utilized from the JTA's Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C) program. The JTA has actively tested AV technology since 2017 to prepare for a conversion and expansion of its Skyway automated people mover in Downtown Jacksonville into a network powered by autonomous vehicles.