Steering Wheel Pros and Cons

Our team is considering to use a steering wheel this year, any thoughts?

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I think you might want to try a gamepad such as an X box controller, and see how you do.

Steering wheels work pretty well for driving cars, but you’re sitting down in a car. You can’t sit down when you’re driving the robot in competition.

How are you keeping it in place? The driver stations on the field are not as stable as a regular table

It has a built in clamp so we can clamp it to the edge of the driver station table. Australian regional driver stations are pretty stable xd

The only pro is that some drivers prefer it, and control the robot better with a steering wheel. Anecdotally speaking, they’re better for games where you have to make long full-field cycles.

Cons are that you need to control the robot speed somehow too. Foot pedals are hard to operate while standing, so you have to use a joystick and use the steering wheel one handed. Not a huge deal, but it makes the steering wheel a little harder to use. You also have to remember that the driver typically has to do more than just drive, there’s also intaking, shooting, climbing, etc, and with a steering wheel + throttle combo, those buttons aren’t always intuitive or easily accessible.

The driver I coached back in HS used a steering wheel both years he drove. He, to this day, will claim it’s superiority but I think we just copied 1678 and he got used to it (which is far more important than anything else). From a purely objective prospective a steering wheel does give you fine tuned control but is on the larger side which makes it harder to control one handed.

I never really enjoyed the thought of using steering wheel. It just feels wrong to see the turn of the robot. Many times there are not enough buttons. And takes a lot of space as well. I never was and will not be a big fan of steering wheel unless I’m driving a robot that has a drive like actual cars.

Depends on the drivetrain, but in my driving experience, I’d say it’s not the best idea

Steering wheels are made for cars that have Ackermann steering. Robots (typically) have tank style steering where each side is independently driven

Most top level teams have transitioned to a style of driving that mimics ackermann steering (chezy drive or curvature drive) so by this logic would a steering wheel be the correct application?


My best advice on choosing a control scheme is to come up with a “robot agility course” that involves all the basic types of maneuvers that you’ll see at a competition. Give your driver all of the potential options of controllers (tank, arcade, steering wheel, xbox controller, guitar hero, etc) and run some time trials.

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I feel with the many obstacles in the way of your vision tying yourself down to any mounted control system is literally limiting your ability to maneuver and see the field. Controlers offer the freedom to dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge.

And with the huge structure in the middle of the field, between you and the goal, it’s really nice to be able to move around, so you can see your robot, and what it’s aiming at.

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