KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (WAVY) — There’s a new ride in town and it’s driverless.
The Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation, or CASSI for short, just debuted at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills.
CASSI will be the first self-driving vehicle to be tested at a recreational public lands site. The pilot testing of the vehicle will be held at the Wright Brothers National Memorial for the next three months. It will take passengers from the museum to the First Flight bronze sculpture and back.
“It’s important and also an honor to do this here at the Wright Brothers memorial because this autonomous shuttle really is the future,” said David Hallac, the Superintendent of National Parks for Eastern North Carolina.
NCDOT officials say CASSI will help transportation officials learn more about how driverless vehicles can be safely and effectively used in the future. CASSI’s pilot program will collect information including the numbers of passengers, trips, and the shuttle’s battery usage.
The vehicle navigates its routes using remote sensing laser technology called LiDAR and GPS used to map and then monitor a fixed route. Officials say sensors in the vehicle continuously scan the shuttle’s surroundings and signal for it to stop when an obstacle is too close.
Although CASSI might be driverless, a trained customer service operator will ride inside as part of the pilot to ensure the safety of the passengers. The operator will be able to manually stop the vehicle at any time of the ride.
Rides are free. However, the number of passengers is limited due to the size of the vehicle and space limitations due to COVID-19.
The shuttle is on loan from a company called EasyMile for a price tag of $50,000 per month. NCDOT and NPS are splitting the bill.
Officials say they hope this is a glimpse of the future and one say soon these types of shuttles will be in National Parks all over the country.
Yellowstone National Park will start a similar pilot program with autonomous shuttles later in the summer.