The US, like much of the world, is moving to keep contact between its residents to a minimum as it grapples with the spread of coronavirus, and a new project taking place at the Mayo Clinic is exploring what this could mean for medical testing.
In what is billed as a first for the country, self-driving shuttles are being used to move COVID-19 tests from a testing site in Jacksonville, Florida, to a nearby Mayo Clinic processing laboratory, all without a human on board.
The Mayo Clinic has teamed up with the self-driving startup’s Beep and Nayva for the project and has already deployed four autonomous shuttles servicing a route between a testing site and an analysis lab on the clinic’s campus.
Once the testing is complete, workers load the samples into a secure container and place them aboard the autonomous shuttle, which then makes its way along a route that is free of pedestrians, traffic, and staff. The only catch is that, while no human driver is aboard the shuttle, it is escorted by another vehicle that follows behind at a safe distance.
In this way, the method may be deemed as no more efficient than simply having a human driving the vehicle, but in a time when physical distancing is ever more important to slow the spread of the virus, theses people-free shuttles can not only keep medical staff safe but also enable them to focus directly on treating and caring for patients.