The National Park Service has a delightful Instagram account where they have recently highlighted the upcoming kickoff of a three-month pilot of automated shuttles at Wright Brothers National Memorial, “a place where a dream became a reality for motorized flight.” The allusion is not lost; this new frontier of driverless vehicles will change life as much as—maybe more than?—airplane travel.
A similar three-month pilot will occur at Yellowstone from May through August 2021. NPS reports that two vehicles are currently at Yellowstone, with teams training and mapping in the month ahead of the launch. The Yellowstone vehicles have been nicknamed TEDDYs—The Electric Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone.
If the pilots are successful, they will inform the future of the parks’ transportation. NPS says “this three-month project is just one piece of a greater initiative to test the suitability of emerging AV technologies for public lands.”
NPS assures park visitors that the shuttles are always supervised by an on-board operator and intended for no more than six passengers. They are entirely optional for visitors, and still in the testing phase. NPS also highlights that these vehicles are electric and low speed, addressing both environmental impact and safety concerns.
We may be on the cusp of photographing breathtaking vistas with elk, bison, eagles…and driverless shuttles.
Reality Changing Observations:
1. What is your gut reaction to the idea that driverless shuttles may be employed at national parks?
2. What are your concerns regarding these vehicles? What are the benefits?
3. Would you opt to ride in one? Why or why not?