The Jacksonville region has been at the forefront of many innovative projects, and as local businesses and organizations navigate changing regulations and best practices in the midst of COVID-19, that innovative mindset remains front and center.
With increased pressure and eyes on the health care industry, there is ground-breaking work happening at Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, and with their recent announcement regarding the use of autonomous vehicles being used to transport medical supplies and COVID-19 tests, that work will be expedited to keep our community safer. The use of this technology to transport medical supplies is not only a first in the region, but in the entire United States as well.
Four autonomous vehicles (AVs) began operating March 30 along an initial route, in full autonomous mode without attendants or other people on board, to transport COVID-19 tests from a drive-thru testing site to a processing laboratory within Mayo Clinic’s campus. The COVID-19 test samples are then placed in secure containers prior to Mayo Clinic health care professionals loading the samples onto the shuttle.
The innovative program was highlighted in a recent Smart Cities Dive article in which Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), a key partner on the initiative, was able to reimagine how AVs can move not only people, but also goods. According to JTA CEO Nat Ford, “With automation and thinking outside the box, we can solve a host of problems by not just sticking to the routine way of doing things.”
This collaboration between Mayo Clinic, JTA, Beep and NAVYA also speaks to the continued efforts underway in support of our community’s smart region plan. The plan, submitted last year by the North Florida Smart Region Coalition builds from an established master plan with 33 projects that advance new energy, safety, telecommunications, and health and human services initiatives across four counties of Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns.
Mayo Clinic’s AVs showcase an idea in the same vein as those laid out by the North Florida Transportation Planning Organization, which has been at the center of many of the Smart Region efforts. Areas of focus have included making Bay Street into an innovation corridor, complete with AVs, solar sidewalks, gunshot-detecting light poles, pilot programs for private vendors and more. The efforts have been matched by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority’s work to transform the Skyway into the Ultimate Urban Circulator (U2C), an AV network composed of the Skyway’s elevated infrastructure and connected surface streets, among other programs.
The health, biomedical and transportation sectors in the region continue to create innovative and important partnerships and are coming together in this unprecedented era. Even in the most challenging of times, Jacksonville’s health care and transportation companies cannot only be relied upon, but can be looked at as a source of ingenuity and inspiration as they rise to the occasion and problem solve on behalf of the greater community.