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U2C at Mayo Clinic - March 31 2020 - photos courtesy of Mayo Clinic

Coronavirus in Florida

Automated Vehicles used in Jacksonville to help with COVID-19 tests

Driverless vehicles help in the coronavirus war.

Duval County continues to wrestle with the novel coronavirus, with nearly 300 positive tests already.

As testing expands, so does innovation.

According to a media release from the Jacksonville Transportation Authority, autonomous vehicles are being used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests at the Mayo Clinic in Florida.

The tests are shuttled in secure containers from a drive-thru testing site to an on-campus processing lab.

This is, as far as JTA knows, the first deployment of AVs regarding testing for the novel coronavirus.

“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,” Ford added.

The Ultimate Urban Circulator (U²C), largely funded with federal and state money, will run down Bay Street, from the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center (JRTC) to the Sports Complex.

Jacksonville and JTA, at the forefront of autonomous vehicle deployment, introduced another purpose in real time, a contrast to the gradualist approach to the U²C.

But it’s one welcomed by medical professionals.

“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 Dr. Kent Thielen, CEO of the 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.”

Challenging times indeed.

As of Thursday morning, the state crossed the 8,000 case threshold. There have been 128 deaths, and 1058 hospitalizations due to the virus.

Of those cases, 271 are in Duval County. Seven have died from COVID-19, and thus far 34 patients have been hospitalized.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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