National Park

Yellowstone National Park unveils automated electric cars

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) – Park officials have launched the first tests of electric vehicles in Yellowstone National Park that can operate without a driver.

The park on Wednesday kicked off a $ 360,000 public experiment on the potential future of visitor transportation, unveiling two eight-passenger cube-shaped vehicles to be tested at Canyon Village, The Billings Gazette reported Wednesday.

“This kind of technology can really help us achieve some of our key sustainability goals that we’ve set for ourselves here in the park,” said Park Superintendent Cam Sholly. He noted that vehicles are expected to run through the Canyon Village parking lot until August 31 to provide visitors with free and quick trips to nearby accommodations and campsites.

The 3D printed vehicles are named Olli by the manufacturer, Knoxville, Tennessee, Local Motors and nicknamed TEDDY, short for The Electric Driverless Demonstration at Yellowstone. Each vehicle can carry 1,350 pounds (612 kilograms) and has $ 300,000 worth of technology installed by Beep Inc., including 12 360-degree cameras and a high-voltage battery.

Similar vehicles have been deployed in Maryland, Italy and Berlin.

“Obviously we’re not moving a lot of people,” Sholly said, but the shuttles are being deployed to test if the technology is working. Future testing could expand potential routes in the park.

The park is conducting the tests in partnership with the Department of Transportation Volpe National Transportation Systems Center. The future of vehicle use in national parks is uncertain. Partners are simply looking for more information, including passenger surveys.

“We’re just trying to understand the technology we have today,” said Joshua Cregger, technology policy analyst at Volpe.

The shuttle test is part of Yellowstone National Park’s Visitor Utilization Management program, which focuses on understanding and responding to increased visits.