Yellowstone National Park

 By: Nick Gambino

Electric vehicles are everywhere and now they’re even in Yellowstone National Park. The park launched a couple of electric vehicles, capable of driverless operation, to shuttle visitors throughout the expansive grounds. (Jurassic Park anyone?)

The two cube-shaped EVs seat eight passengers each and are provided by Local Motors who 3D printed the shuttles. They’ve been cutely named TEDDY (The Electric Driverless Demonstration at Yellowstone) with a clear nod to Teddy Roosevelt, an avid outdoorsman, who was responsible for creating national parks.

“This type of technology can really help us achieve some of our major sustainability goals that we’ve set here in the park,” Cam Sholly, the Park Superintendent, said of the integration of electric cars in the national park.

To start, the EVs will be available at the Canyon Village parking lot, shuttling people to campsites and lodging as a test from now until August 31st. “Obviously we’re not moving a lot of people,” Sholly said.

These rides will be free and will provide a quick and environmentally friendly way to cross through areas of the park that might otherwise require gas vehicles or a grueling hike. If the test is a success, they will most likely expand the EV shuttle program to include routes through the park.

Each of the two vehicles houses over $300,000 worth of EV technology placed there by Beep Inc. A large part of the test will consist of making sure these vehicles can detect and avoid people and animals. These are crucial for a wider deployment of the TEDDY program.

12 cameras mounted on all sides of the EV will give a complete view of the surroundings while LIDAR will be used for additional detection when visibility is low. Tesla has famously denounced LIDAR as a 100% effective means of detection in a self-driving vehicle. Though, the fact that these vehicles won’t be driving on city streets or congested highways leads me to think they’ll be fine in Yellowstone

There is no guarantee we’ll see a wide deployment of EV shuttles in Yellowstone or any other national park. They are merely in the testing phase, gathering information to see if it’s effective, safe, and sustainable.