Yellowstone is America’s oldest national park. But, it will soon be the site of some of the newest transportation technology in the world. Starting in May 2021, the popular vacation spot will experiment with autonomous shuttles.

The vehicles will be operated by Beep, a mobility-as-a-service provider based in Florida. The goal of the pilot program is to provide visitors with a safe, innovative and eco-friendly transportation alternative while exploring the natural wonders of Yellowstone.
“Yellowstone and the National Park Service are proactively engaging with emerging transportation technologies by looking for ways to test, pilot and learn from these capabilities,” says Cam Sholly, superintendent of Yellowstone National Park. “We will continue exploring possible ways to reduce congestion and to improve visitor experience and access in heavily travelled areas of the park.”
“By utilizing 100 percent electric autonomous shuttles that have zero emissions, the deployment aligns with the park’s priority to improve visitor safety, access and experience,” adds Joe Moye, CEO of Beep. “The pilot will be supported and monitored by an onboard shuttle specialist, on-the-ground staff and [our] global command center to ensure safe and reliable operation.”

Beep has not yet announced what company will supply the shuttles. However, on several previous projects in Jacksonville and Tampa, it has used vehicles made by Nayva SA, a French company that has factories in Lyon, France, and Saline, MI.

Navya's lithium-ion battery powered shuttles carry 15 passengers. Each vehicle is equipped with eight lidar sensors and two cameras.

A Navya Autonom shuttle will soon be on display at another popular U.S. tourist attraction: the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI. It recently acquired a vehicle donated by Mcity, an automated vehicle research facility at the University of Michigan. The shuttle was used as part of the first driverless shuttle project in the United States focused on user behavior.

The research effort studied how passengers, pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers interacted with the autonomous vehicle. With the shuttle, The Henry Ford also receives the extensive data processed by market research firm J.D. Power regarding rider interaction with a new form of transportation.

“It’s imperative that we continue to thoughtfully document the growth and acceptance of autonomous vehicle transportation,” says Patricia Mooradian, president and CEO of The Henry Ford. "The shuttle used by Mcity, and the research processed by J.D. Power, is a very important piece of helping us continue to grow our automotive collection and tell the future story of mobility."

"Navya is honored to have The Henry Ford acquire one of our shuttles as part of its collection of vehicles that played a pivotal role in American history," adds Jérôme Rigaud, chief operating office of Navya. “Sitting alongside early automotive examples like Ford’s quadricycle from 1896, presidential limousines and iconic Americana like a 1950s-era Oscar Mayer Wienermobile, the shuttle will be right at home.

“While vehicles like the quadricycle help to tell the story of a time when Americans transitioned from animal powered transportation to engine powered, the shuttle will inform future generations about the era when we transitioned from human-driven transportation to computer driven,” claims Rigaud.

“We’re delighted that one of the Navya shuttles used in [our] driverless shuttle research project has a new home at The Henry Ford,” says Huei Peng, a mechanical engineering professor who serves as director of Mcity. “The historic impact of automated vehicle technology could one day match or exceed that of the automobile itself. The Henry Ford is the ideal place to chronicle that transformation.

“[Our] research focused on how people reacted to the driverless shuttle experience as much as the technology itself,” explains Peng. “Equipped with exterior video recorders, the Mcity shuttles captured reactions from people outside the vehicles, and interior video and audio recorders captured reactions from passengers inside. Mcity staff monitored ridership numbers and patterns throughout the project, and riders were encouraged to complete a survey about their experience.”

The shuttle survey, developed by J.D. Power and Mcity, included questions that ranged from passengers' reasons for riding to their degree of satisfaction with the service, interest level in autonomous vehicle technology, and most significantly, the degree of trust riders had in the shuttle and its driverless capabilities.

“What makes this shuttle so significant is that it’s a story less about technology and more about psychology,” adds Matt Anderson, curator of transportation at The Henry Ford. “Building a working autonomous vehicle is one thing, but getting people to accept it is something else. Mcity is a leader in studying this important side of the self-driving equation.”