Regulated self-driving shuttles move COVID-19 tests in Florida

Regulated self-driving shuttles move COVID-19 tests in Florida


Self-supervised shuttles are being used to take Covid-19 tests from Jacksonville, a testing site in Florida to Mayo clinic processing location. Non-profit medical call it’s the “first time” for the USA.

But just like any other case with self-driving vehicle pilot programs, here is catch too: during every single run from and to the clinic, this autonomous shuttle is tailored by a human driving the SUV.

Mayo Clinic released a video of the self-driving shuttle, and the SUV can be spotted in that video. The mayo clinic worker leads the test cooler into the self-driving shuttle and then SUV follows the shuttle across the campus Of Mayo clinic, where another fresh batch of tests is replaced with another test cooler. Since March 30th, four different shuttles have made the run to and from the clinic each day.

Joe Moye, the CEO of Beep autonomous vehicle operator, said in a statement that Jacksonville Transportation Authority is giving the chase vehicles in order to “ensure no traffic or pedestrians would potentially impact the delivery path of the COVID-19 samples and supplies.” Despite the fact that the routes on which the shuttle is running are completely isolated from traffic, pedestrians, and staff.

Keeping the tests cooler in driverless shuttle instead of a truck or an SUV driver by a human minimizes the potential risk of novel Coronavirus, said a beep representative, who has worked with Mayo clinic, JTA and also Navya on the pilot, a self-supervised shuttle builder. By looking at the distance covered by the shuttle in the released video by the Mayo clinic, it looks like having a self-supervised vehicle can help in speeding up the test delivery process to the processing site. One additional benefit is that having an autonomous vehicle keeps the clinic staff free of delivering the test samples process and they could rather focus on other important work, according to Moye.

Humans can’t be cut off completely from driving. Even in Beep, the JTA and Mayo clinic is always closely monitoring the shuttle from a commander center to ensure no problem in delivery.

The main priority right now is to get tests done safely and quickly, especially after considering that it took a long time for the US to raise its serious testing regime. This self-supervised shuttle is an effort in Florida to show how difficult it is to remove humans completely from driving tasks even in this pandemic when re-writing some rules and cutting the corners is acceptable.

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Shubhrata Choudhary