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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

National Park Service Emerging Mobility

Since 2018, the Volpe Center has worked with the National Park Service (NPS) to develop a strategy to help national parks adapt to and proactively address emerging mobility trends, including electric vehicles and charging, micromobility, traveler information technologies, ridehailing, and automated vehicles.

Volpe is supporting NPS in exploring emerging mobility pilot projects with dozens of parks across the country. Volpe provides NPS with extensive technical assistance at all stages of the pilots, including assessment, planning, deployment, and evaluation. Findings from these demonstration projects will support future efforts related to the safe integration of these new technologies. Pilot opportunities include:

  • Implementing electric vehicle charging stations in partnership with gateway communities.
  • Partnering with gateway communities and transportation providers to establish bike share or scooter share opportunities.
  • Establishing designated pick-up/drop-off zones for ridehailing.
  • Using technology to display real-time parking or transit information in parks, online, or through mobile apps.
  • Testing low-speed, electric automated shuttles in park settings. Two such pilots were completed in 2021: one at Yellowstone National Park and the other at Wright Brothers National Memorial.

On November 17, 2021 DOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg and Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Deb Haaland signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between DOT and DOI on Transportation Innovation in the National Park System at an event in Washington, D.C. The MOU strengthens the collaboration between NPS and DOT to continue working together to proactively address emerging mobility trends to support visitors, encourage car-free trips, protect natural and cultural resources, and develop a more efficient, safe, equitable, and nimble transportation system.

Completed Emerging Mobility Pilots

With Volpe support, NPS launched the first-ever automated shuttle pilots on any recreational public lands in the country in 2021 at two iconic NPS locations. The pilot at Wright Brothers National Memorial, the Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation (CASSI), ran from April to July 2021. The Wright Brothers pilot was conducted in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The automated shuttle pilot at Yellowstone National Park operated from June to August 2021. The Electric Driverless Demonstration at Yellowstone (TEDDY) brought visitors to and from the lodges and campground in Yellowstone’s Canyon Village.

These pilots involved the deployment of low-speed, electric automated shuttles in different operational settings. To date, most automated shuttle pilots have been held in urban areas, and the remote setting at Wright Brothers and Yellowstone provided NPS and industry leaders with an opportunity to assess the suitability of these technologies for use in public lands. The goal of the pilots was to evaluate how automated, electric vehicle technologies perform in public lands and guide long-term decisions about transportation in parks, including enhancing access and encouraging green, car-free trips. Additionally, the NPS aimed to:

  • Enhance the visitor experience by facilitating new interpretive opportunities and improving mobility assistance.
  • Demonstrate the use of automated shuttle technologies for public use in novel operating environments, including rural/remote areas and/or recreational settings in mixed traffic, and how those outcomes could be applied to other public lands.
  • Identify and overcome unforeseen regulatory and organizational barriers of emerging mobility technologies.

Left image: NCDOT’s Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation (CASSI) being deployed at Wright Brothers National Memorial. (NCDOT photo) Right image: The Electric Driverless Demonstration at Yellowstone (TEDDY) at Canyon Village. (NPS photo)

From the inception of both pilots, Volpe provided NPS with technical assistance on considerations around automated shuttles and vehicles. This support included the development of a sources-sought request to learn more about automated shuttle technologies and a request for quotes that resulted in the selection of a private vendor to conduct the Yellowstone pilot. Volpe staff supported NPS throughout planning discussions with NCDOT and other project partners for the Wright Brothers pilot.

Volpe staff also provided technical expertise on automated shuttle technologies to NPS staff, including developing reference materials and presenting to NPS audiences. These materials and presentations were used to inform NPS decision-making regarding the automated shuttle pilots, as well as additional potential future pilots. Volpe also assisted NPS in developing approaches for risk management as a part of planning for the shuttle pilots, along with a user survey to collect data about passenger experiences and attitudes toward automated shuttle technologies at NPS sites.

Following the completion of these two automated shuttle pilots, Volpe produced a detailed evaluation. This evaluation involved assessing the performance of the shuttles and their automated technology based on a range of metrics collected during the pilots, including shuttle ridership, route performance, battery performance, and interventions from the shuttles’ safety operators. By assessing the shuttles’ performance in Wright Brothers and Yellowstone remote/recreational settings, the evaluation can inform potential use cases for these technologies at other NPS and public land sites. The team also conducted interviews with park staff and project stakeholders to document lessons learned, in order to inform future implementation of automated shuttles or other emerging mobility pilots.

Evaluation documents for the automated shuttle pilots at Yellowstone National Park and Wright Brothers National Memorial include:

Last updated: Wednesday, June 22, 2022