“We’re very pleased to participate in this shuttle pilot and test this evolving technology,” said Superintendent Cam Sholly. “As visitation continues increasing in Yellowstone, we are looking at a range of visitor management actions that focus on protecting resources, improving the visitor experience, and reducing congestion, noise and pollution. Shuttles will unquestionably play a key role in helping achieve these goals in many of the busiest areas of the park.”
Shuttle Route Information
All passengers were required to wear a mask while on board the shuttle. Disinfectant wipes and hand sanitizer pumps were available for onboard use. Shuttle attendants were required to:
If a shuttle attendant were to be diagnosed with COVID-19, a shuttle would immediately be taken out of service and decontaminated by a third-party cleaning contractor prior to the shuttle going back into service. Beep continuously monitored the number of COVID-19 cases and adapted to the current environment to provide enhanced cleaning, sanitizing, and COVID-19 safety protocols that aligned with federal, state, and local health guidance.
Questions & Answers
In June 2020, the NPS put out a request for quotes to industry for operating AV shuttles in Yellowstone during summer 2021. Following a virtual industry day and 45-day window for vendor responses, the NPS, working alongside the Department of Transportation, selected Beep, Inc. They met all the requirements in the project scope and we are excited to be working with them on this project.
Why did the National Park Service select Yellowstone to pilot automated vehicle shuttle technologies?
In 2019, Yellowstone was the sixth-most visited national park in the United States with over 4 million visits. Due to its remoteness and popularity, the NPS selected Yellowstone to explore opportunities to advance our goals related to emerging mobility and better plan for the future of transportation.
There were several weeks of testing onsite prior to the launch, which could have led to necessary adjustments as applicable to ensure safety. A robust plan was used to train all parkwide first responders on operations that could arise during the pilot. Beep Inc. was required to regularly report all data tied to ridership, departure times, route performance, and battery performance to the NPS. Similarly, they were required to report any crashes or near crashes immediately to our law enforcement officers as well as the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Before any work began, Beep Inc. ensured they had insurance to operate a motor vehicle in the state of Wyoming covering each vehicle and its operator. Insurance was required at all times during the life of the contract.
The NPS is part of the Federal Lands Transportation Program working in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to deliver transportation improvements across the US. Recently, the FHWA developed innovation and research opportunities to fund projects within federal lands, like Yellowstone. Part of that funding was used for this project to support the contract and to support technical aspects needed on the project from start to finish.
A successful pilot needs to ensure that safety comes first. We will be able to measure and mitigate this in real time as we actively monitor all shuttle activity and environmental conditions. A primary goal of this project is to understand how this technology operates in parks, so we will be collecting data throughout the pilot about ridership, speeds, stop times, attendant overrides, and much more. We also want to be transparent and provide information to visitors to help them understand how to use the shuttles and give them opportunities to provide feedback on their experience. We’ll use that feedback to inform next steps and overall considerations of emerging transportation technologies. Lastly, we will be looking at the limitations and opportunities that exist to inform future policy and regulatory needs. Once the pilot is complete, and we can gather all the data, we’ll be able to address this more holistically.
This pilot will be used to help inform considerations for emerging technologies like this throughout the park system and give us a better sense of what’s needed. If successful, we may consider using this technology in the future as we examine how alternative transit systems can be used in Yellowstone to improve visitor access and experience.
Additional information: Emerging Mobility - Transportation (U.S. National Park Service) (nps.gov)