Mobility-as-a-service vendor Beep will start a pilot program to deploy the first autonomous shuttles at Yellowstone National Park beginning in May 2021.
The program will test multi-passenger, electric automated vehicle platforms as an alternative for visitors who are exploring the famous park. Beep is working with the National Parks Service’s (NPS's) Park Planning, Facilities and Lands Directorate, the Department of Transportation and Yellowstone National Park to plan, deploy and operate two shuttles in Yellowstone.
The automated shuttles will be operated around Canyon Village and will serve campground, visitor services and adjoining visitor lodging areas. The NPS said this location was chosen based on visitor safety and the potential for NPS to learn from the pilot to test emerging automated vehicle technology in the national park context.
The shuttles will begin running in late May 2021 through August 2021 with exact shuttle stops, route locations and distances to be determined later.
“Yellowstone and the NPS are proactively engaging with emerging transportation technologies by looking for ways to test, pilot and learn from these capabilities,” said Cam Sholly superintendent at NPS. “We will continue exploring possible ways to reduce congestion and to improve visitor experience and access in heavily travelled areas of the park.”
Additionally, Yellowstone is partnering with the NPS Intermountain Regional Alternative Transportation Program, the NPS Denver Service Center and the DOT Volpe Center to analyze the risks and costs of local shuttles including system locations, routes, stops, fleet requirements, business models, ridership and costs. The park expects the study to be completed in 2022 and will form the park strategy for local transit service using emerging transportation technologies.
Beep will provide the autonomous vehicles, engineering and mapping of the routes, operation, monitoring and management for oversight and support for ridership demand. The 100% electric autonomous shuttles have zero emissions and will be monitored by an onboard shuttle specialist on the ground.
Earlier this year, Beep started a shared-ride service using Navya’s autonomous shuttles in the city of Peoria, Arizona, in a 60-day pilot program to gauge consumer interest along with the feasibility of these shuttles based on ridership adoption behaviors. After the outbreak of COVID-19, Beep and Navya partnered to use the shuttles to transport COVID-19 tests collected at a drive-thru testing location in Florida to a clinic in order to remove as much human contact as possible from the testing process.
Additionally, Beep signed an agreement with Local Motors to collaborate on a national fleet of U.S.-based autonomous shuttles using Local Motor’s Olli 2.0 electric, 3D-printed shuttles. The companies will work to expand the operating domain of the multi-passenger, self-driving vehicles with its testing and information sharing program through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
Since launching services in September 2019, Beep has transported more than 16,000 passengers, eliminating the equivalent of nearly 9,400 vehicle trips with carbon emissions that would have required 170 trees to reverse, Beep said. Beep is also one of the first automated vehicle service providers to participate in the NHTSA’s autonomous vehicle test initiative public portal launched in September of this year.