All aboard the TEDDY shuttle

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Autonomous, electric vehicles are driving around Yellowstone National Park in a new test program that could become a permanent mode of transportation.

Last week, the park debuted its new "TEDDY" program - or The Electronic Driverless Demonstration in Yellowstone.

"As visitation continues increasing in Yellowstone, we are looking at a range of visitor management actions that focus on protecting resources, improving the visitor experience, and reducing congestion, noise, and pollution," Superintendent Cam Sholly said in a statement. "Shuttles will unquestionably play a key role in helping achieve these goals in many of the busiest areas of the park."

The TEDDY shuttle will transport visitors free of charge within the Canyon Village campground, visitor services, and adjoining visitor lodging areas. The cube-shaped shuttles look a bit like a child's toy - but are capable of carrying up to 1,350 pounds in its 7-foot by 13-foot frame, according to the Billings Gazette. Visitors who board TEDDY can watch an informational five-minute video while on board, explaining the shuttle program and its potential impact on wildlife in Yellowstone.

The program will run two different routes during its pilot period through August 31. Visitors who ride TEDDY are encouraged to complete a survey after their experience. Information from the survey will be used to plan future transportation options throughout the park.

Yellowstone has been seeing record numbers of visitors. In May, the national park set a new tourism record, with 483,000 visitors, The Associated Press reported. So far this year, the park recorded more than 658,000 visitors. Officials predict the park may break tourism records and welcome 4.7 million visitors this year, according to Billings Gazette. By 2023, vehicular demand for the park is expected to exceed current capacity.

Over the next year, Yellowstone will continue a separate study to analyze the way visitors move through the park and how to best protect the environment. The study, which will last through 2022, will study four of the park's most congested areas, including Old Faithful, the Upper Geyser Basin, Norris Basin, and Canyon Village. Results from the study will inform future decisions about piloting a local transit service in the park.

Cailey Rizzo is a contributing writer for Travel + Leisure, currently based in Brooklyn. You can find her on Twitter, Instagram, or at caileyrizzo.com.