The ever-growing road congestion and safety hazards induced by conventional highways has inspired the development of automated highways which provides four key benefits: fuel economy, environmental protection, road safety and smooth traffic flow. Vehicle platooning is a vital component of automated highways which contributes directly to these four benefits with its sequence of closely spaced leader-follower vehicle configuration by taking advantage of the ‘slip-stream’ effect to minimize the aerodynamic drag. Exploratory studies into platooning parameters, vehicle spacing, speeds and number of vehicles, have proven to be prohibitive expensive both computationally and experimentally due to the complexity of tests and the large number of test cases. In recent years, OpenFOAM® an independently developed, supported and documented open-source toolbox has gained popularity by offering a lower cost alternative to leading commercial CFD products. This paper summarizes the results from a computational study of autonomous vehicle platoons and the capability of OpenFOAM® to substitute leading commercial CFD solutions currently used to support vehicle aerodynamic development. This study investigates the aerodynamic characteristics of a 4-SUV platoon at inter-vehicle distances ranging from 0.25 to 1 SUV length at a constant speed of 23 m/s. Trends of the predicted aerodynamic drag coefficients (Cd) are then compared against experimental data from published literature as well as the results obtained from a leading commercial CFD package.

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