Platoons - The aerodynamics of close running ground vehicles
The introduction of autonomous road vehicles gives rise to the potential of driving very close together in a platoon formation. This can reduce vehicle drag which may improve fuel efficiency. However, it also introduces uncertainties related to the overall stability of vehicles.
Correctly modelling the relative movement of vehicles and the ground can be a difficult task due to limitations in wind tunnel capabilities. Furthermore, the shape of the vehicles is known to play a pivotal role with regard to the overall benefits from platooning and most previous research has only investigated relatively short platoons (up to 4 vehicles). Hence, a systematic study is needed to ensure the economic and environmental benefits from platooning are not at the cost of road vehicle safety.
The vehicle platooning research is an EPSRC funded project (EP/N004213/1), carried out by the Wind Engineering and Aerodynamics Group in the School of Engineering, aims to improve our understanding of the nature of the flow between vehicles (lorries and cars) in a long platoon and identify the aerodynamic benefits and issues that may result. These aims are achieved through a combination of innovative model scale experiments and computational fluid dynamics. The former were undertaken at the University of Birmingham Transient Aerodynamic Investigation (TRAIN) rig facility.