Keep Sufficient Automated Shuttle Replacement Parts on Hand to Minimize Service Disruptions.

National Park Service and NCDOT Conducted an Automated Shuttle Pilot on a 1.5 Mile Loop Through the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

Date Posted

First in Flight, First in Automation: NCDOT and NPS Pilot an Automated Shuttle at the Wright Brothers National Memorial

Summary Information

Emerging mobility technologies, such as automated shuttle technologies, have the potential to improve the quality of transit service for first-/last mile transportation. With the goal of improving visitor experience and resource protection as well as advancing alternative mobility solutions, an electric, automated shuttle pilot, the “Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation” (CASSI), was conducted at the Wright Brothers National Memorial by the National Park Service (NPS) and the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). This pilot ran from April to July 2021 for a total of 64 days of operation (46 days with full operation) with a single shuttle equipped with various sensors (e.g., lidar, radar, and camera units) and an automated driving system (ADS) capable of operating at SAE automation Level 4 (High Driving Automation). The shuttle took riders on a roughly 1.5-mile loop through Wright Brothers National Memorial and was scheduled every 15 minutes, in which ridership was first-come, first-served. The operating hours were Monday through Friday between 10:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Although the maximum capacity of the shuttle is 12 passengers, the pilot limited it to 6 passengers. Data collection involved weekly reports from the operator, monthly disengagement reports, monthly

Lessons Learned

  • Ensure equipment malfunctions can be resolved quickly by maintenance staff and keep sufficient replacement parts to minimize service disruption. During the pilot, the battery malfunctioned and battery technicians in France had to be consulted, which extended the service disruption.
  • Conduct a risk assessment to evaluate and mitigate potential safety concerns before operations begin and develop a matrix of mitigation measures clearly assigning responsibility for further action. Although it is not possible to predict all potential hazards, risk assessments can reduce the risk of safety issues during the pilot. During this pilot, one incident occurred where drivers attempted to pass the shuttle when it stopped at a crosswalk to yield to pedestrians. Although pedestrian conflicts were identified in the risk assessment, this issue was not anticipated and needed to be resolved during the pilot.
  • Be aware of potential sensor disruptions and disengagements caused by environmental conditions. Light rain, weeds growing near the roadway, and small insects were noted as causes of sensor disruptions and disengagements during the pilot. It is important to note that the reason for the disengagement might not always be immediately clear to operators.
  • Specify the automated shuttle operation guidance that operators should receive to ensure consistency in operations. Instances where some operators failed to switch the operating status signs at shuttle stops from “open” to “closed” caused confusion among riders. Guidance should be specified when operators are being trained, such as  when to deploy the accessibility ramp or intervene in a possible safety conflict to ensure consistent operating procedures among shuttle operators.
  • Establish a consistent set of procedures for shuttle service interruptions. Although service interruption was considered in the risk assessment, planners did not expect potential riders to be stranded by service suspension. For example, this dilemma could be resolved by providing a backup conventional vehicle to transport visitors when the automated shuttle is not in service. 
  • Provide clear information on signage at vehicle stops and be prepared to address participant confusion due to unexpected vehicle behaviors. Sufficient information about service frequency, route, and rules needs to be provided on signage at the shuttle stops to avoid participant confusion. In this pilot, the shuttle was forced to slowly follow the pedestrians around the route because the safety protocols prevented it from passing pedestrians, which caused confusion to the visitors. To address this issue, signage was added noting this behavior during the pilot.

First in Flight, First in Automation: NCDOT and NPS Pilot an Automated Shuttle at the Wright Brothers National Memorial

First in Flight, First in Automation: NCDOT and NPS Pilot an Automated Shuttle at the Wright Brothers National Memorial
Source Publication Date
Cregger, Joshua; Kendall Mahavier; Amalia Holub; Elizabeth Machek; Stephanie Sudano; Travis Crayton; Rahi Patel; Amanda Good; Katie Wong; and Steve Suder
Prepared by Volpe for National Park Service and NCDOT
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