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 automated vehicles, micromobility, traveler information technologies, and ridehailing.
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), began on April 20, 2021, and will run through mid-July 2021. The Wright Brothers pilot is being conducted in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The automated shuttle pilot at Yellowstone National Park begins in early June 2021. The Electric Driverless Demonstration at Yellowstone (TEDDY) will transport visitors to and from the lodges and campground in Yellowstone’s Canyon Village through August 31, 2021.
These pilots involve the deployment of low-speed 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 will provide NPS and industry leaders with an opportunity to assess the suitability of these technologies for use in public lands. The goal is 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 aims 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 has provided NPS with technical assistance on considerations around automated shuttles and vehicles. This support has 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 have also provided technical expertise on automated shuttle technologies to NPS staff, including developing reference materials and presenting to NPS audiences. These materials and presentations have been used to inform NPS decision-making regarding the automated shuttle pilots, as well as additional potential future pilots. Volpe has 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 will also carry out a detailed evaluation. This evaluation will involve assessing the performance of the shuttles and their automated technology based on a range of metrics to be 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 will inform potential use cases for automated shuttle technologies at other NPS and public land sites. The team will also conduct 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.