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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Apr. 2, 202011:34 AM EST

Mayo Clinic, JTA to autonomously shuttle COVID-19 tests

The four vehicles began testing Monday.
by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer

Mayo Clinic announced April 2 that autonomous vehicles would help transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests throughout its Jacksonville campus.

Starting March 30, four autonomous vehicles began operating, driving from a drive-thru testing site to transport specimens to a processing lab on Mayo Clinic’s campus. 

Mayo Clinic announced March 31 it would increase its COVID-19 testing capabilities to be able to process 1,000 tests daily, returning results within 24 hours. 

“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,” said Kent Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic in Florida.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority is working with Beep, NAVYA and Bestmile to create, test and deploy the vehicles on routes throughout the campus. They’re designed to stay away from pedestrians, traffic and staff. 

Mayo Clinic staff load the specimen into secure containers before they’re loaded into the vehicles. Transporting them autonomously increases safety and allows the use of less Mayo Clinic staff. 

Beep, Mayo Clinic and JTA will monitor the vehicles remotely to ensure they’re operating safely.

Lake Nona-based Beep is an autonomous shuttle fleet service provider. It brought one of its vehicles to Mayo Clinic from Orlando. 

JTA provided its shuttle from its Ultimate Urban Circulator program. It’s been testing the technology since 2017 in preparation to expand and convert the Skyway into an automated people mover.

“This development is a historic moment for the Jacksonville Transportation Authority,” says Nathaniel P. Ford Sr., CEO of JTA. “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.”

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