Florida Mayo Clinic using autonomous vehicles to transport coronavirus tests
At the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Fla., a novel idea is now helping to keep those on the front line of coronavirus as safe as possible: autonomous vehicles.
The 10-seat "BEEP-mobiles" developed by NAVYA cruise around without a driver by using GPS technology and LIDAR to navigate the road, reducing person-to-person contact. About 700 people a day are pulling up to a drive-through coronavirus testing site at the facility and that's where the BEEPs come in.
(Mayo Clinic) The health care worker who administers the swab test puts that sample in a cooler.
When the cooler is full of potentially contagious samples, the nurse on the front lines places the cooler into the autonomous vehicle, which then drives it across the campus to the lab. There, another hospital worker retrieves the cooler and brings the samples inside for analysis. This maintains social distancing and allows health care workers to reduce their own risk of contracting the virus.
"It's being able to embrace technology," said Dr. Charles Bruce, "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 (JTA) has been testing these autonomous vehicles for the past 3 years.
It was the JTA's idea to use the vehicles to help those who are helping the public, and the Mayo Clinic fully embraced the driverless delivery concept.
It's been working so well that doctors are now finding other ways to use these "robots on wheels" and will likely continue into the future, as social distancing, hand-washing and reducing the spread of germs seems to be everyone's new normal.