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Mayo Clinic is using autonomous shuttles to collect Covid19 test samples

Mayo Clinic is an American not-for-profit organization working for clinical healthcare and research. As COVID-19 has spread worldwide, one of the major issues faced by hospitals is to make sure there is minimal mixing of healthy people with those who are sick or might be sick and objects that might be harboring the virus. Mayo Clinic is no less than other hospitals and is working hard in this period of an ongoing pandemic.

As more people experience symptoms, they try to confirm their disease & the only valid way for diagnosis is through nucleic acid tests. These tests are mostly being done at the hospitals, and as people go for tests their chances of catching the virus, or maybe spreading it increases due to the interaction with objects or the  people at the hospitals or nearby.

Mayo Clinic has taken a step in order to avoid any error which could possibly risk people’s life by joining hands with Jacksonville Transportation Authority and two self-driving automobile start-ups Navya and Beep. This has led to the release of autonomous shuttles that function to transport samples from potentially infected people to the laboratory testing staff. The shuttle service got its first vehicles moving on March 30th, 2020 when four automobiles began operation.

Mayo Clinic Automated Shuttles
Image Credit: Mayo Clinic

JTA, NAVYA and Beep collaborated for Mayo Clinic’s shuttle program 

“During a time of rapid change and uncertainty, the ability to think innovatively alongside Jacksonville Transportation Authority, NAVYA and Beep, the pandemic has strengthened all of our teams through community collaboration,” said Kent Thielen, M.D., who is also the CEO of Mayo clinic. He further appreciated the companies by saying “we are grateful to JTA, Beep and NAVYA for their partnership in these challenging times.” Mayo Clinic’s CEO seems quite satisfied with the new changes and hence, persuades other clinics to practive social distancing using advance steps and techniques. 

How does the shuttle works?

The use of artificial intelligence enables to protect staff from exposure of this contagious virus by utilizing cutting-edge autonomous vehicle technology which frees up staff time leaving them with enough time to direct treatment and care for patients. The system works as the hospital staff loads the test equipment on to the shuttle, the shuttle then goes to test locations which are drive-thru testing sites and collects samples. Inside the shuttle, before sending the samples, the staff packs COVID-19 test samples in secure containers before they are loaded onto the shuttle by the healthcare staff to avoid any kind of blunder. After collecting samples, the shuttle goes back to the laboratory at the clinic and submits them without any muddle with the other cases.

Mayo Clinic Automated Shuttles
Image Credit: Mayo Clinic

Monitoring and control of the shuttle

The monitoring is being done from a mobile command center. Even though the shuttles are self-autonomous, workers at Beep, Mayo Clinic and the Jacksonville Transportation Authority are controlling and monitoring the shuttles. For the time being and in order to avoid any kind of fatality, the company’s ensuring that the whole transportation process is safe by using the roads free from pedestrians and any other form of traffic to minimize the risk and maximize the safety of people and their vehicles.

CEO of NAVYA, Étienne Hermite, said, “The opportunity to work together with these organizations in an effort to provide a dedicated COVID-19 testing solution represents our goal as a company, and that’s to create a more accessible solution in the moments that matter, whether that be crisis, shortage in manpower and resources, or other areas we can provide aid in”. Moreover, a quick initiative taken by Mayo Clinic is an ideal approach to avoid misunderstanding and errors which could lead to further spread of Coronavirus.

Mayo Clinic Automated Shuttles
Image Credit: Mayo Clinic

Autonomous vehicle technology is being utilised in different parts of the world to carry-out various job functions in order to reduce human effort and improve overall efficiency. France recently tested the world’s first automated airport baggage transport system in a real-life working environment.

Mayo Clinic’s autonomous shuttle service for sample collection is a step in the right direction in fighting the ongoing Covid19 pandemic.

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