Self-driving cars proving helpful during coronavirus lockdowns

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While it may be more than a decade before self-driving cars become a common sight on public roads, they’re already proving useful during the current Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Self-driving cars are being used in several parts around the globe to help ease the burden of medical staff already pushed to the limits dealing with the pandemic.

One instance is at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, where self-driving shuttles have been used to transport medical supplies and testing kits between the clinic’s main premises and a nearby drive-thru testing site since last week.

Four of the shuttles are being utilized. The shuttles come from French firm Navya and are operated by a local fleet management company by the name of Beep. The shuttles run along routes isolated from pedestrians and general traffic and are still monitored remotely for safety.

“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,” said Kent Thielen, CEO of the Mayo Clinic in Florida.

Another instance is in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus first emerged. There, a self-driving startup company by the name of Neolix is using small self-driving vehicles designed for delivery services to deliver medical supplies and spray disinfectant along empty streets.

Back in the U.S., a company by the name of Nuro with a self-driving delivery vehicle similar to the one from Neolix earlier in April was granted permission by state officials to test its vehicles on California’s roads. We’re talking pod-like vehicles without a human on board. Waymo is the only other company allowed to test vehicles without a driver on board on California’s roads but is yet to proceed that far.

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