Sunday, February 13, 2011

Arduino RC Car Hack

Here's how I modified a cheap RC car so that it can be controlled from anywhere in the world.  The whole project took about 4 weekends to implement, working around 6 hours per weekend.   The whole idea was to build an RC car that could really be *remotely* controlled, I'm talking thousands of kilometers of range...  As a bonus, this device acts as a tele-presence bot since it uses a netbook with skype to provide video feed to the person who is controlling it.  Let's have a look at how it was built.

I went to Toys'r'Us, and found this little baby:

I stripped it of the unnecessary bling.  I then had to wait for my Arduino to arrive...  It finally came.

I started working on what was my first Arduino project.

I got my computer to talk to the Arduino.  I then built the little circuit of switches using opto-isolators, and connected it to the remote control of the RC car.

I used a bunch of self adhesive tie mounts, and many tie-wraps to firmly hold the PCBs in place.

Here's the final assembly:

A couple more tie-wraps, some hockey tape, and voilà!  Here's the final result:

Source Code

You can find the source code of the project at:

I might explain the circuit in more details in the coming days...

Thanks for passing by,


Pierric Gimmig

P.S.  To Johnny Chung Lee

I saw your video showcased on Engadget last Friday.  Cool stuff!  Very similar to what I've been working on for the past few weeks.  My implementation costs half the price though ;-)  We should race them some day :-)

Here's a link to the Engadget story:


  1. This is awesome dude !
    Congrats !!!

    1. Excellent!
      But ? What about situations like loss of connectivity?

  2. Nice one Pierric! I happened to read about Johnny Chung Lee's project at New Scientist just yesterday, and I thought that someone should rig it up on a simple RC car instead. What's the latency like? Could you actually race it? :)

  3. Thanks Nick! I haven't properly measured the latency, but on my home network it's not too bad. The real test is going to come when Stephane controls it from Sydney, the furthest place away from Montreal :-). As for the race, sure! Why not! I just have to wait for the snow to melt...

  4. Hey Pierric!

    Nice job d'être sur Engadget! C'est pour cela que je suis rendu sur ton site.

    Are you going to control the RC motors directly next time? Strip the original RC electronics out and use an Arduino motor shield or something more custom? It would be more simple and you would have better control over the speed and turning. Then add bump sensor and other cool stuff.

    keep it up!


  5. I'm building a tricycle for sick kids to control from their hospital bed. Much the same setup. Thanks for sharing the code! It will get the project rolling much faster.

  6. Hey Pierric!

    Very cool project. Nice mounting for all the electronic boards and netbook. I'm looking to set up a variation of what you've done. Im disabled and race a 1/8th scale gas rc car. Its difficult to use a pistal grip rc controller and usb xbox 360 controller would be perfect. Would you have a rough idea how go down that road?

  7. @Jerome, you are absolutely right, the only reason I hacked the remote control is because I wanted a quick proof of concept, but replacing the car's pcb altogether is by far a better solution. It would indeed allow me to have better speed control.

    @Richard, using a game controller is really easy to do. You can use Microsoft's DirectInput library to get the input from pretty much any controller, even a full wheel and pedals setup if you wanted. Actually, I was thinking of doing just that, so stay tuned!

    Thanks for your comments btw.

  8. Like it very much. Keep up your way of documenting your projects with Videos and Codes.

  9. Nice work, I saw this on Engadget. Awesome!!!

  10. Cool project, nice shirt.

    Can you note what you used to interface between comp 1 -> comp 2 -> arudino?

    Thank you

    Go Habs Go!!

  11. Nice! I created just similar to this using Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 -

  12. Nice! Engadget even posted about you!

  13. The link for at source code is broken.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. hi i love your project. its awesome. i really want to biuld this. can you please tell me the instructions to build this car? iam a high school studrnt and i rlly want to try it out. Thank you

  16. I have been dreading starting a similar project because I was thinking the hacking in to the RC Car would be too much for me... But never even thought about hacking the remote control instead... I am stoked to start this now... I am also looking at wiring in a xBox Kinect to the netbook another overwhelming undertaking...

  17. so when will there be a link to control this bad boy :)

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  19. I like the idea of the wireless camera. ALways thought it would be fun to have an RC car with a wireless camera so that I would start the car from my notebook and see the video........Visit this site


  20. In the past big video cameras made it very hard or impossible to do this but fortunately technology has evolved so now that dream can become a reality!.Having Remote Control Cars along with cameras is a great idea and having a great fun.I like this.


  21. Excellent!
    But ? What about situations like loss of connectivity?

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  23. Hello dear may you explain the circuit in more details.I am very interest about your project

  24. You ought to basically fantastic not to mention solid advice, which means notice:

  25. This RC car is so cool, it is powered by electricity or gas.