4x4-All terrains Autodrive system - Alpha-release

4x4-All terrains Autodrive system - Alpha-release

Hi ! You may remenber my Autodrive system, built few years ago.

Since its release, I have been working from time to time on a new improved version, allowing much more (and a bit less in some areas, but globally much more). These last weeks, I have spend more time on it an this is a first glance on it.

The new system includes all these features :

FEATURES : :yes:

  • All terrains automated driving system with automatic obstacles detection,
    not using physics simulation (No game engine).

  • Just import your own model of car, wheel and terrain : the system is ready to play with.

  • Animating the car requires only to edit the curve (trajectory) in top view, and adjust the speed by an unique Ipo curve (LocX of the Arrow mesh).

  • Automatic tracks creation after each wheel. Generates animated textures for tracks in all ground materials : sand, mud, soil, snow, grass…

  • Driving character provided, automatically animated. You can easily edit the shape and materials of the mesh to create you own character that will still be animated if you don’t break the Vertex Groups.

I want to thank “littleneo” who has kindly written a nice script for wheels rotations. This script has given to my vehicles a differential, a feature on which I was working with few succes with conventionnal Blender “mechanics”.

Here is an example of my setup in action, in video (38Mo - Mpeg2) :


Note that nothing has been animated by hand ! The behaviour of the car, the driver and the ground are fully automatic !

I know, I forgot some vertices in a group of the terrain, so the tracks also affects the small area below the tree trunk… :wink: Fixed in current version.

It is just a first test and I’m currently working on the addition of the Tracks Creator (available separately on my site through the Blender section of the menu).

For now, the tracks generation requires a baking of the system particle, the rendering of the tracks animated texture sequence and the final rendering.

All these operations can be done in one unique pass, and it has been tested, but with some drawbacks like limitations in the proprotions of the animated texture, So I’m not yet sure of the final choice I will make about that.

In a close future, automatically animated caterpillars (Tank tracks) will be added to the system.

This setup is still a WIP (not including the Tracks Creator), but for those who would like to start playing with the system, here is a Blend file :


This file was not supposed to be released yet, and is just a working tool for me, so I have not yed had time to give detailed informations about Layers, so you will have to look and see what you will find on each !

In short :

Layer 1 : Global structure of the car rig, less some intermediary object, Trajectory Curve and Ribbon mesh.
The trajectory curve can be edited easily in Edit mode, Top view.
Layer 2 : Wheels and suspension blades.
Layer 3 : Intermediary object part of the car rig.
Layer 4 : Car body. I name it a Blend-Rover ;o) The car model still has a Mirror Modifier to allow easy modifications.
Layer 5 : Car top (roof).

Layer 6 : Terrain and lamps.
Layer 7 : Driving character. I name it SAM (Simplest Armature Man), even if it doesn’t use my favourite personnal rig that I usually name like that !
Layer 9 :
Layer 10 :

Layer 11 : Text in camera view.
Layer 12 : McPherson suspension springs and absorbers.
Layer 13 :
Layer 14 :
Layer 15 :

Layer 16 :
Layer 17 :
Layer 18 : Other car parts.
Layer 19 : Other car parts.
Layer 20 : Other car parts.

You will find some instructions in the text window.

A more usable version including Tracks creation will be released as soon as I’ll have solved some problems and made a choice between one pass rendering or multipass.

Stay tuned ! :eyebrowlift2:

Best regards,


Nice work, but the wheels don’t turn.

Hi Atom,

I’m almost sure that the wheels don’t turn because you haven’t read the instructions in the text window :

The wheels are controlled by a script. This script is activated by frame 1.
As the default position of the file is frame 2, you have to go 1 frame back (this brings you in the GARAGE AREA where you can customize the car). Then Start the animation from frame 1 and everything will work !

Writing a manual is always time consuming, over all when it is not in your native language, and it is always sad to see that people dont read it !o(

Please check again and tell me !


Yep, that worked. You can’t just rewind because you have the start frame set to #2. But I moved to frame #1 manually and then pressed play.

One thing of note, and maybe why I did not read more than what was visible in the text box on launch is that Blender keeps telling me it can not access drive D:. This message box appears over and over whenever I try to move my mouse into the text area to scroll the copy and read it. I finally got the message box to go way by clicking on the red Question Mark icon and making the “Text Internal”. My guess is that you keep that text document on a D: drive on your system. I do not have a D: drive so Blender freaks out by repeatedly popping up a message box. Perhaps on you next release, if you remember, make all text documents internal before you release.

I am looking forward to working with this driving system you have created.

Thanks again!

You are right, my data disk is D:

For the external/internal data thing about the text file, I had checked… I think that it happens when opening the file on an other machine, but I’m not sure.

I have done some little modification in the appearance at opening and updated the file.

Please tell me if the External data warning is still here. It is interesting to know.

I have updated the file to make the animation start from frame 1, in the Garage area. I had made it start on frame 2, because I had the fear that people wouldn’t understand at first glance why the car disapeared from the window.

I am currently working on a manual gear box command, with a grid and gear lever : Using this interface it is possible to change the gears in the car, like in a real car or in a video-game. Animating a car will have never been simpler. The character has his right hand leaving the steering wheel and changing the gear with the lever, while his left foot press the clutch pedal !

The hand animation already works, and I’m working on the foot constraint. It will be very realistic !

After that, I will work again on the integration of the tracks creator, that already works fine, but is not as handy to use as I wish.

And next in my to do list : integration of the caterpillars rig (Tank tracks).

Stay tuned !


Wow, there are many new functionalized.

The new version looks very good, I’ll have to look more closely.
The reading and track your work is very interesting.
I spent much time studying your previous version of the tutorial Autodrive. :slight_smile: (I can post a video this weekend).
Thank you very much and good strategic choice for the future version. :slight_smile:


Thanks Nicolas,

The development is slow, and the setup is complicated to build, but it should be very easy to use for the final user. I try to built it like a simple tool, so there is no need to understand everything in detail to use it.

This looks pretty cool, roubal. I can remember encountering no end of frustration when trying to animate a vehicle moving along rough terrain. I tried everything from pushing it along using the physics engine, to using the edge 2 curve script, and I never really found a good way to do it.


Well, I haven’t had much time today, but I have found some to include the manual gear box in the new version.
It has a small visual interface :


The instructions are at the bottom of the text file in the text window. The Clutch pedal command (Red Cursor) is now available in the GUI, just below the Gear box grid. The right hand and the feet of the character interact with the gear lever and pedals. :yes:


I have also included the Tracks Creator, but some features are still missing, and the Manual is not yet written. I have rendered the video given in example with this file, but without instructions, I’m not sure that you will get something usable. So, you can play with the animations, but I fear that you’ll have to wait for a more complete version to check the Tracks Creator… Even if the instructions included in the Tracks Creator v3 manual could help a bit, there are still dark areas including important missing informations about the resolution setup of the animated texture, the baking process and the UV map required conditions…


I have not yet made a choice for the tracks generation method, because I am currently working on an other Rig system, that should be simpler.

Stay tuned !


I do not have external data warning with the “4x4-Autodrive-GearsClutch&TracksCreator_02.blend”.

it’s just a small video with an old version of Autodrive slightly modified with tire stretches: Car

Best regards and thank you,



I’m still working on my 4x4 Autodrive setup. Things go slowly, because I’m rebuilding it from scratch again and again, trying various methods.

This time, I have used an armature instead of a bunch of Empties. It is simpler to import from a file to an other one, but has also some drawbacks : the armature is less reactive than simple objects, and some delays appear here and there, leading to a loss of accuracy in the animation. Also, the preview seems to be slower.

I still have to improve in some areas, like the contact between the front wheels and the ground. Due to priorities between constraints and modifiers, sometimes the wheels don’t touch the ground surface.

I think that I will try again with ordinary objects and empties, but this time with the same structure as the armature.

Here is a video showing a test with the armature setup :


I also have to improve the behaviour of the grass. It is not easy, because the particles and the ground mesh are not affected by the same tools and method.

Stay tuned !


Nice video ROUBAL.

Here were some of my initial thoughts. I noticed the vehicle has a leaf spring on the back, but your rig simulates the rear tires as if there were struts present. Typically if there are leaf springs present, there is a rear axel with a center differential, all moving off the rear axel. As a feature request, it might be nice to take that into consideration for your new rig. Support two different rear wheel styles. I don’t mean to complicate things, but a pickup truck suspension is different from a sports car. Having that rear wheel rig modification would allow more convincing body styles when people start popping other models onto the rig.

Also, that terrain is very bumpy, but the driver just sits there without any reaction to the bumpiness. What if you put an empty in each seat that relayed some of the terrain bumpiness information to the character driving? The empties would just be there. You could attach them to anything you like, groceries, passengers, pets…?

Keep up the good work, I hope to play around with your example files more.


Thank you for your comments.

Typically if there are leaf springs present, there is a rear axel with a center differential, all moving off the rear axel.

You are right : I have made this choice because I used a very bumpy terrain for the tests, and sometimes the differential passed through some obstacles !

I know that with such a rig, I should have put McPherson’s springs on the rear and front wheels.

For the driver’s behaviour, I also agree that he is too stable. As well as the body of the car. It is due to the new animation method, using a tracking system instead of a copy Location/Rotation.

With the old method only, the driver was very shaked (too much).

I plan to try a mix of both the previous and the current method to improve this, but I also want to simplify the rig, and simplifying while adding features is a real challenge !

To be continued…


Hi, I’m on version 3.0 of my 4x4 Autodrive system. It is a completely new system, allowing a better contact between the wheels and the ground. This new setup is made with solit objects and Empties. It is simpler than the 1.0 and more accurate and reactive than the 2.0 using armatures.

I have not worked on the driver and on the springs. The purpose of this new trial is only to test the accuracy of the wheels and body rig.


As the tracks have to be generated before the wheels, the car is affected by vibrations due to the real bump of the prints. I have to make some tests about some ways to damper these vibrations.

Dang, that is looking good ROUBAL!

The ground tire interaction does look more accurate.

Thanks !

I have encountered a annoying trouble while working on tire tracks in grass. I have opened a thread about it : In animation, the animated texture (sequence of images) used for the tracks is refreshed only for displacement, but is not for the particles/texture settings. It is refreshed only when you Enter/Exit Edit mode by hand, so it doesn’t work for animations .Tested in 3D view and in rendering as well, with v2.48a and v2.49a…

Thread here :


Hi, For people who don’t like to download videos, I have just created an account at Vimeo :


This said, I have just seen that this thread has had 615 visitors so far, but only 3 of them have written a comment… less than 0.5% !

What must I think about that ? I thought that animating cars realistically and automatically on all terrains would be interesting for many people. Maybe I was wrong.

Recently I have received two e-mails asking why I don’t make more tutorials… Now, you know why ! Please, if you are interested by a topic, leave a comment. For my own, I don’t need to write tutorials about my own projects. If you ask months later when I’m busy and working on something else, it will be too late.

This is amazing work. Although I am new to blender I can see how this will simplify many things for me as I progress. I know my comment isn’t very useful because I haven’t tested your system, but I felt bad that you were feeling you didn’t get enough feedback for something so useful. Maybe you can put this in the blender wiki and get more exposure, since this animations forum seems pretty new.

Thank you Vigilance ! Yes, it is sometime difficult to know if people find your work interesting or not.

I have been stopped for a time by two bad bugs : Hair Particles (used for grass) not refreshed in animations, and Density button not working in Blender v2.49a. Thanks to Atom, who wrote a small python script for me, the refresh problem is temporary solved, while waiting to a real bugfix in a future Blender release.

I have just built the v4.0 version of my 4x4-Autodrive system. This time the rig uses an armature, which is not too complicated :


It is a simplified Blend file, without the tracks creator. The goal is to provide something simple to understand and use.
I could release a more complete version later.

Best regards,


Nice work!

I like the simplified rig a lot. It is much easier to understand and responds quickly.