Saturday, December 10, 2022


Yellowstone adding driverless shuttles for test program this summer


By Mike Gast
If you’ve been to Yellowstone National Park in the past 10 years, you know the frustrations of bad roads, bison jams and way too many tourists.

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This summer, park officials are taking a tiny first step to possibly taking the pressure off a few Yellowstone roads with a unique pilot project featuring driverless vehicles.

Beginning this month, Yellowstone National Park will start a shuttle service using electric-powered, low-speed automated shuttle buses. A similar project will run concurrently at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina.

In Yellowstone, the shuttles will operate all summer long on a small loop among several campgrounds, lodges and visitor centers in the Canyon Village complex within the park. From May 24 to July 12, the shuttles will run from the Visitor Services Center to Moran Lodge to Washburn Lodge. From July 14 to August 31, the shuttles will switch routes and run from the Visitor Services Center to the Amphitheater & Campground Services Center to the Middle Campground and finish at the Upper Campground. Again, all routes are within the Canyon Village complex.

While it may be a bit unnerving to board a bus with no driver behind the wheel, park officials said there will be a trained attendant on board during operation who can take control should a problem occur (like a sudden left turn into Canyon Falls). The goal of the project is to understand how automated vehicle technology can be used in parks and how visitors perceive and engage with the services.

Anyone boarding the bus will have to mask up and undergo a temperature check for COVID-19. The attendant will be wiping down the seats and seat belts after each trip, and the shuttle will be fully sanitized at the end of each day.

The no-hands shuttles were designed and built by a company called Beep, Inc. Yellowstone was selected as one of the test sites because it is the sixth-most-visited national park in the U.S. (more than 4 million visitors a year).

Park officials said the rigs have undergone extensive testing and – if it makes you feel better – all crashes and near-crashes will be quickly reported to the National Highway Safety Administration.

The pilot project is being funded through the Federal Lands Transportation Program and the Federal Highway Administration.


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Edward Wullschleger
1 year ago

I just retired as an embedded software engineer so I had to answer that “I would have to think hard about boarding such a vehicle.” It’s hard to account for all possibilities that the AI software might encounter and AI software is not as capable as most people think. A lot of it depends on how well lane markers and similar cues are defined in the area that the shuttles would be driving in. If you have a lane keeping feature in your own vehicle, notice how it loses track when the lane markings become vague in snow and rain or just wear off. The AI software is better than that because it uses a greater variety of cues, but it still has its limitations.

1 year ago

No thank you, and you can keep your temperature checks and stupid non working masks…
Happy RVing and hope to see you down the road!

Joe Marquez
1 year ago
Reply to  Boltman


Mike Albert
1 year ago

Having never been there, YET, I would enjoy the ability to ride and be able to see the sights. I seldom fully enjoy sightseeing while driving. This way I can fully enjoy the sights and look for those interesting shots with my camera. The fact that it’s a driverless vehicle, hopefully will reduce the park’s expenses thereby reducing the entrance fees. It’s just like going to the people movers at large airports from terminal to terminal, without the tracks.

Trish Draze
1 year ago

wow, what a great idea to eliminating jobs. Poor idea!!!

1 year ago
Reply to  Trish Draze

Since there is an attendant on each bus, it seems they are actually adding jobs. It isn’t replacing a bus, it’s trying to get visitors’ cars off the busy roadway.

1 year ago

Lived in Montana for 30 years. Visited Yellowstone 1 time during the summer. Visited 20+ times before Memorial Day or after Labor Day. Crowd size drops by 90%.

Tommy Molnar
1 year ago

I bicycled from Chicago to San Francisco in 1979. Part of my trip took me through Yellowstone and Teton NP’s. What I remember most was the bumper to bumper traffic lines every morning as visitors moved from campground to campground. I met two other guys bicycling through and we rode together for a couple of days until we all went our separate ways. We would load up in the morning and just glide past all the traffic that would be at an almost standstill in both directions – and LAUGH. Even back then it was a nightmare! I can’t imagine what it’s like now.

chris mud
1 year ago

Ha You’ll end up in a boiling mud pot.

Donald N Wright
1 year ago

Anything to reduce traffic on those narrow roads, maybe even get rid of the tourist buses too.

Eileen Brown
1 year ago

Sure, I would try it….anything that works to make Yellowstone less of a parking lot would be great, in my book!

The Lazy Q
1 year ago

Until there is no choice, my choice is no.

1 year ago

Not interested in being part of the beta testing.

1 year ago

I’m not wearing a “mouth diaper” (mask) this summer! If a mask is required to ride shuttle, then it can do without me!

1 year ago
Reply to  Ted

I want to thank you for your response. I’m glad you are protecting the rest of us by not riding.