UAVs Facilitate Safe Transport of COVID-19 Tests Collected at Drive Thru Test Site

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) has partnered with autonomous mobility companies Beep and NAVYA to use unmanned autonomous vehicles (AVs) to facilitate the safe transport of COVID-19 tests collected at a drive-thru testing location at Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Four autonomous vehicles are operating in full autonomous mode without attendants or other people onboard and are currently transporting up to 150 tests a day – which enables the Mayo Clinic to reassign personnel to other important tasks. There are also potential opportunities for Mayo to utilize the vehicles in other ways further during the pandemic – such as transporting laundry from the hospital.

“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.”

Beep and NAVYA are offering the vehicles and services pro bono and the Mayo Clinic is providing electricity to charge the vehicles. 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.

“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.”