Yellowstone To Introduce Automated Vehicles; What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

If there is a fear that automated vehicles in Yellowstone will turn the park into the set of "Maximum Overdrive", that fear is probably overblown.

Annaliese Wiederspahn

October 26, 20202 min read

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If there is a fear that automated vehicles in Yellowstone will turn the park into the movie set of “Maximum Overdrive” — the Stephen King movie where machines (especially cars and trucks) come to life and run over people for fun — that fear is probably overblown.

Yes, the National Park Service did announce it is going to demo driverless, electric, low-speed vehicles next summer in the park, but that doesn’t mean it’s a recipe for sheer chaos. 

Granted, there are some similarities between the movie and the upcoming foray.

In the movie Maximum Overdrive, automated 18-wheelers — to an AC/DC soundtrack — circle around a truck stop and run-over patrons who unwisely step outside the facility.

In Yellowstone, automated shuttles — to a yet unspecified musical selection — will reportedly circle around pre-determined areas such as campgrounds, commercial buildings, and lodging areas.

But instead of running over patrons, the plan is to drop visitors off at these facilities.

“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,” Yellowstone Superintendent Cam Sholly said.

On its surface, the Yellowstone plan appears to be more user-friendly than the Stephen King plan.

Another nice benefit to the automated vehicle plan is it is unlikely — unlike many tourists — that the automated vehicle will stop when it detects a squirrel on the side of the road and run out to take photos, thereby causing a two-mile long traffic jam.

Park officials say they are giving the automated thing a try in an effort to make the Yellowstone experience better.

“We will continue exploring possible ways to reduce congestion and to improve visitor experience and access in heavily traveled areas of the park,” Sholly said.

To find out more about this upcoming pilot program, check out this page.

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Annaliese Wiederspahn

State Political Reporter