BUTTE, Mont. — Yellowstone National Park is launching the first program of its kind for the park, thanks to an investment from the Federal Lands Transportation Project.
TEDDY -- The Electric Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone -- is a new driverless shuttle service.
The cars are owned by Beep, a company that put its first self-driving vehicle out in Florida in 2019. Currently, they have 17 different driverless shuttles across the U.S. that work on public roads.
They cost around $300,000 each.
"Our team has been here for the last eight weeks on the ground experiencing every season possible," said chief marketing officer Racquel Asa.
Starting Wednesday, the company will help deploy its shuttles for the first time in a national park.
“We can test the technology on two different routes and two different operating environments," noted Christina White, visitor management at Yellowstone National Park. "Our goal is to learn as much as we can and apply this lesson to national parks in the future.”
At this time, the two shuttles will only be running June 9 to July 12 from the visitor center, stopping at Moran Lodge and Washburn. The shuttles will stop running on July 13, before running again July 14 to Aug. 31 from the visitor center to the campgrounds and back.
White said the two different locations will provide a different environment to see how well the vehicles can perform in everything Yellowstone has to offer.
Officials noted that, while TEDDY is equipped with cameras and sensors, the test routes are in areas where cellular service is also accessible instead of remote parts of the park.
Multiple safety measures have been taken before launch, according to all parties involved.
"We spent hours yesterday with first responders, frontline workers, park rangers and guides," said Asa. "We let them look at every nook and cranny inside this vehicle so if they do need to respond to an emergency, they could touch and see and understand the vehicle before ever picking up guests.”
Officials with Yellowstone also said there will be an attendant in the vehicle along with a chaser car behind to keep a watchful eye on the driverless shuttles at all times.
But the overall goal is clear -- trying to improve visitor experience in what is expected to be one of the busiest years the park has seen.
"We're very active managing and monitoring what the increased visitation impacts are on resources in the park," park Superintendent Cameron Sholly said.
Both Sholly and White said the next 12 weeks will help them determine what changes are necessary in the long run to make Yellowstone enjoyable for the years to come.