Driverless, electric, low-speed shuttle vehicles are coming to Yellowstone National Park — and soon.
A contractor will start running the automated vehicles in late May in the Canyon Village area, shuttling visitors to yet-to-be-determined stops near the campground, commercial buildings and lodging areas.
The vendor, Beep Inc. Shuttles, was selected for the pilot program, which will run through next August.
“Yellowstone and the National Park Service are proactively engaging with emerging transportation technologies by looking for ways to test, pilot and learn from these capabilities,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said Wednesday in a statement. “We will continue exploring possible ways to reduce congestion and to improve visitor experience and access in heavily traveled areas of the park.”
Beep Inc. Shuttles is based in Orlando, Florida, and bills itself as the “next generation of passenger mobility.” The fledgling business, which is less than 2 years old, has landed major federal BUILD transportation grants to develop and deploy its technology.
Its driverless vehicles currently shuttle COVID-19 samples around the Mayo Clinic campus in Jacksonville, Florida. Another deployment is at the 17-square-mile Lake Nona planned development, also in Florida, where Beep shuttles run four different 1-plus-mile routes.
Yellowstone also plans to launch a transit feasibility study next summer to weigh the opportunities, risks and costs of local shuttles at Old Faithful and Canyon Village. The Park Service’s Intermountain Regional Alternative Transportation Program, Denver Service Center and U.S. Department of Transportation’s Volpe Center will look at potential system locations, routes, stops, fleet requirements, business models, ridership and costs.
“The outcome of the study will inform whether piloting a local transit service in Yellowstone is feasible,” a park news release said.
Results are expected in 2022.
Visitation to Yellowstone has increased by about 40% over the past dozen years. Record crowds have stretched infrastructure beyond capacity, especially during the summer, said park officials, who are testing different methods to mitigate crowding and traffic jams.