Texas A&M professors and students develop autonomous van with telehealth technology

Published: Nov. 5, 2020 at 7:33 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 6, 2020 at 11:49 AM CST
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COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KBTX) -Healthcare is an ongoing problem for our rural communities. For some people seeing a doctor means a trip to a larger city miles away. A team of Texas A&M professors and students are hard at work developing a mobile telemedicine system installed on an autonomous vehicle.

Such a system, Texas A&M Professor Dr. Wei Li says, is important especially during the Coronavirus pandemic. “A lot of older adults are so concerned about visiting a clinic or going to the hospital because of the risk of being exposed to COVID-19 and with our service they don’t have to worry about that.”

It is called ENDEAVRide, a “2-in-1 Taxi+Telemedicine” service. Dr. Li says America is a great place if you have a car, but too many people in small-town America cannot afford a car or have health insurance. The driver-less van which Dr. Li calls the doctor’s office and taxi on wheels is the first of its kind in the nation. Nolanville, TX is the first city that will be testing out the technology.

Anna Cooper, a student at Texas A&M University says the technology and service are invaluable for those who don’t have access to transportation or healthcare. “ENDEAVRide makes it super easy for anyone to get healthcare or health services or just get from point A to point B,” says Cooper.

The driver-less van features systems that measure blood pressure and other vital signs, devices that measure the height and weight of a patient, and video conferencing which will allow passengers to speak with a medical professional, and much more. “We have the remote diagnostics devices and we have the video conferencing system so that you will be able to have a video conversation with a doctor, and have your vital signs taken as well,” Says Dr. Li.

Dr. Li says he hopes the technology makes people’s life a little easier for small and rural towns. “We want to make people’s life better by delivering transportation and healthcare to peoples' doorsteps,” says Dr. Li.

Will Bennett is a Junior Urban Planning student at Texas A&M University. He contributes with the sanitation and handicap accessibility portion of the van. Bennett says the technology is a game-changer for small towns." This really is an answer for the people that are having to use other services to meet their accommodations." says Bennett.

Program Aide Ryan Kraus helps lead the team with fabrications work, making sure the van is structurally sound and that the internal mechanisms work properly. He says he’s glad to take part in this project and serve the community. "When I think of serving the community I think of how Jesus would serve other people and how he met both a

spiritual and physical need and the people in rural areas have a physical need and me I get to help with that need," says Kraus.

Those close to the project say the ultimate goal is to make life easier for people in small towns. " We want to reach the people in the sense of reaching people that don’t necessarily have the means to serve themselves," says Texas A&M Professor Michael Gayk. Texas A&M student Zhiheng Hu who helped develop the mobile app that the platform uses says he just wants to bring technology to small towns that need it. “Our goal is to be the connection between ENDEAVRide and the user, we want to bring the brand new technology to the community to improve their life,” says Hu.

To implement projects like ENDEAVRide and help small towns enjoy the benefits of emerging technologies, Dr. Li and his Texas A&M colleagues founded a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization called ENDEAVR Institute. Dr. Li’s team has received numerous in-kind donations from the industry, such as the self-driving technology from WOCSOR and mechanics' support from Aggieland Automobiles; ProHealth 2020 has committed to providing disinfection services for ENDEAVRide using a germ-killing technology-based solution called Zoono, which founder Dan Quinn says can kill hundreds of viruses, bacteria, and germs including COVID-19 on surfaces for 30 days or more.

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