The interaction between tires and soft soils is a complex process that has not yet been fully understood. Attempts to create analytical models which realistically simulate these interactions have proven to be exceedingly time consuming for each tire model and have achieved only limited success. Thus, the exploration and evaluation of traction concepts by analytical means is impractical. This paper posits that significantly more reliable, rapid, and cost effective development is achieved through the prototyping and experimental evaluation of traction concepts. Here, three traction prototypes are developed and evaluated by undergraduate teams in the course of an academic semester. These concepts explore the performance of grousers, inverted geometry (dimples), and cellular materials respectively using a wheel endurance and soft-soil traction testing system at Clemson University. Each concept is tested at different acceleration rates from 0–10km/h and at different loads while measuring the slip between the tire and soil surfaces. The results of experimental evaluation indicate that cellular materials present a unique slip profile which is superior to that of the two other purely geometric concepts studied. The worst performance was seen on the inverse geometry concept which presented a behavior of steadily increasing slip with respect to wheel velocity regardless of acceleration. Grousers also presented this behavior but only at higher accelerations. This suggests that not only that prototyping is preferable, but that traditional soft-soil traction approaches may be in error.

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