RC Car Piloting with the Blast Shield Down

Many of us have had a radio controlled car at some time in our youth, though it’s probable that none all of us entirely mastered it. There are memories of spectacular crashes, and if we were really unlucky, further boosts to Mr. Tamiya’s bank balance as fresh parts had to be fitted.

[Paul Yan] was watching his young son with a radio controlled toy, and was struck by how the two-joystick control layout is not necessarily as intuitive as it could be. By contrast when faced with a console game with first-person view and a steering wheel the boy had no problem dropping straight into play. This observation led him to investigate bringing a console steering wheel to an RC car, and the result is a rather impressive FPV immersive driving experience.

Paul's FPV car, explained.
Paul’s FPV car, explained.

His build took a PS2 steering wheel peripheral with pedals and mated it to an Arduino Uno via a PS2 shield. The Uno talks to a Nordic NRF24L01 RF module, which communicates with another NRF24L01 on the car. This in turn talks to a car-mounted Arduino Micro, which controls the car servos and speed controller.

FPV video is provided by a miniature camera and transmitter from the world of multirotor flying which is mounted on the car and transmits its pictures over 5GHz to a set of monitor goggles. Sadly he does not appear to have posted any of the software involved, though we doubt there is anything too challenging should you wish to try it for yourselves.

The video below shows the car in action, complete with an over-enthusiastic acceleration and crash from his young son. He tells us it’s a similar experience to playing a racing kart game in the real world, and having seen the video we wish we could have a go.

We’ve featured another steering wheel controlled FPV car in the past, though this one is a more elegant presentation. Neither can beat the FPV flying of a model Hawk trainer though, with a servo-controlled pilot’s hand for extra realism.

26 thoughts on “RC Car Piloting with the Blast Shield Down

          1. Wha? They just did an article on open RC RX/TX right here on HaD. That’s mainly the hardware side of the TX. The communication protocols between RX/TX can get a little gimmicky due to manufacturers all claiming to have better signal stabilities and whatnot, but I don’t think that should matter.
            No more proprietary or hard to understand than the NRF24L01 anyway.

            You just get you a cheap TX/RX from hobby vice-roy and connect your steering wheel to arduino wedge thingy to the trainer port on the back. Cheap too! I have a ton of TX/RXs laying around as I always end up with a plane that comes with the cheapy TX and I like to use my ER9X radio.

            And it’s got way better range and soooo much easier to use on the RX side as it is already spitting out PWM signals the servos need, or even digital signals if that’s your servo’s cup ‘o tea. no programming arduinos or dealing with NRF24L01s, which I personally haven’t had much luck with.

  1. Two sticks? Any reasonable RC car nowadays has the pistol grip wheel transmitter. And why the mess with an arduino and radio modules?? That looks like an ECX brand car, which should use a Spektrum receiver. Just buy a used spektrum/dsm radio for $10 (or use the one it came with), pull out the guts and wire it into the PS2 wheel’s potentiometer. Set trims and endpoints on the radio, done deal.

    1. Totally agree any “real” RC racer worth his salt uses a pistol grip. My goal was to make something for my son and feel more immersive and natural to real driving. I think tapping into the original receiver is a perfectly reasonable approach but I wanted to build this from the ground up because I have plans to add additional instructions to the rig. Stay tuned…

    1. That might be cool, but I’ve tried something similar to this hack myself (did it differently, though) and I can tell you one thing that definitely makes it more immersive is the ability to look left and right.

      There is nothing that makes you realize just how natural and normal looking “into” turns is like not being able to do it! Driving from a camera stuck looking straight ahead is really hard! Being able to look left and right (like I said: “into” turns) feels amazing by comparison.

  2. Haha this is great. The electronics club at uni is running an RC car race that is almost identical next week. We have 2 cars, cameras, screens rather than googles, and then using the nRF modules for transmitting lap data.

      1. Yep. We had it today and it was a heap of fun. It became jumping of the cars towards the end, which resulted in many cool shots. Surprisingly, no broken cars. I’ll try to collate videos taken by other people as well.
        Big issues though when it came to using the nRF modules. The 2.4Ghz band was completely crowded so the lap timing didn’t work. Stopwatches to the rescue.

    1. we went for a drive in the local pedestrian area using a similar setup, we used a pistol grip and leftovers from quad for the video tx/rx, the biggest issue was balance since we used a gimballed camera for stability.

      1. Without anyone on it, just strip all the plastic toy bits and the handle bar off then automate it. I wonder if you put a bigger fuel tank on it and controlled it via the mobile phone network how far you could have it roam. The next step is to use it for an AI test bed, roboquad! Having these race against each other, under their own control, would be an awesome geek sport. The thing is, people already spend as much on just a toy car or plane anyway.

  3. awesome work love it

    MANY many years ago I attached an analog TV video transmitter with a black and white cammera to a RC car and tried driving around the house watching the TV – The experience left me wondering how they let me have a drivers licence – it was hard.

  4. Lovely project but I am far more interested in if the guy works for Activision/Toys For Bob?
    That is one MASSIVE Skylanders collection :)

    I might migrate my FPV gear from the quadcopter to a small RC tank after seeing this.

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