Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Aerospace Engineering


Aerospace Engineering


Graham C Doig


Autonomous heavy vehicles will enable the promise of decreased energy consumption through the ability to platoon in closer formation than is currently safe or legal. It is therefore increasingly important to understand the complex and dynamic wake interactions between vehicles operating in close proximity for aerodynamic gains. In recent years, a growing body of research has documented a bi-stable, shifting wake generated behind the Ahmed reference bluff body. At the same time, studies of platooning Ahmed bodies have focused on changes to the body forces and moments at different following distances or lateral offsets, typically based around time-averaged measurements or steady-state CFD. The present study attempts to understand the implications of bi-stability in the wake of two square-back, platooning Ahmed bodies, given the potential for transient instabilities. Temporally-correlated static pressures were measured on two identical wind tunnel models at various following distances to uncover the time-dependent interactions between platooning vehicles. Bi-stability is highly dependent on symmetry and the uniformity of oncoming flow, and it is shown that a shifting bi-stable wake behind the lead vehicle leads to correlated, bi-stable flow patterns on the following vehicle, even in the absence of a lateral offset. At a following distance of 0.25L, pressure data indicated there may be a point where this bi-stable behavior reaches a critical point between suppression and amplification, significantly affecting the aerodynamic loads on the lead vehicle. This leads to the conclusion that bi-stable wake interactions between vehicles may be useful to consider in the context of real-time organization of vehicle platoons.