KILL DEVIL HILLS – The Durham-based company TransLoc, a subsidiary of Ford Mobility, partnered with the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to launch a fully autonomous vehicle at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, the first such vehicle to be used at any U.S. National Park.

TransLoc’s real-time tracking software helps power the vehicle, the Connected Autonomous Shuttle Supporting Innovation (CASSI), which was introduced at the 2020 Transportation Summit in Raleigh and later piloted at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus.

“This is a huge milestone for the future of transit innovation, and a solid example of the ways self-driving vehicles can be used in everyday life,” said Brett Wheatley, CEO of TransLoc in an interview. “A successful deployment could push more transit agencies in North Carolina and beyond to begin considering the new ways driverless vehicles will support new community and tourism needs.”

The Wright Brothers National Memorial marks the site of the world’s first powered flight, and during a three-month testing period at the national park, CASSI will shuttle visitors between the Wright Brothers National Memorial museum and the First Flight bronze sculpture, operating at speeds between 8 and 12 mph.

“This is a huge day for transportation,” said North Carolina Transportation Secretary Eric Boyette, in remarks delivered at the event launching the project. “We’ve come such a long way since the Wright Brothers made their first historic flight here more than a century ago. Just like that milestone, we think the CASSI represents the start of another revolution for transportation.”

According to TransLoc, the deployment at the national park will help the National Park Service gain additional information and knowledge on how to deploy autonomous vehicles safely and effectively at national parks in a way that will meet visitor’s interests.

CASSI uses sensors, including radar, LiDAR, and GPS equipment, to navigate the route, and TransLoc’s real-time tracking software will be utilized to provide visitors accurate information regarding shuttle timing, as well as be monitored by the NCDOT, should any issues develop.

For the testing period, a trained customer service operative will be present in the vehicle.