This work develops and implements an NMPC control system to facilitate fuel-optimal platooning of Class 8 vehicles over challenging terrain. Prior research has shown that Cooperative Adaptive Cruise Control (CACC), which allows multiple Class 8 vehicles to follow in close succession, can save between 3 and 8% in overall fuel consumption on flat terrain. However, on more challenging terrain, e.g. rolling hills, platooning vehicles can experience diminished fuel savings, and, in some cases, an increase in fuel consumption relative to individual vehicle operation. This research explores the use of Nonlinear Model Predictive Control (NMPC) with predefined route grade profiles to allow platooning vehicles to generate an optimal velocity trajectory with respect to fuel consumption. In order to successfully implement the NMPC system, a model relating vehicle velocity to fuel consumption was generated and validated using experimental data. Additionally, the predefined route grade profiles were created by using the vehicle's GPS velocity over the desired terrain. The real-time NMPC system was then implemented on a two-truck platoon operating over challenging terrain, with a reference vehicle running individually. The results from NMPC platooning are compared against fuel results from a classical proportional-integral-derivative (PID) headway control method. This comparison yields the comparative fuel savings and energy efficiency benefit of NMPC system. In the final analysis, significant fuel savings of greater than 14 and 20% were seen for the lead and following vehicles relative to their respective traditional cruise control and platooning architectures.

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