Unlike most motorsports which focus on racing, drifting is more performance art. People spend big money to build drift cars—not to get around a track as fast as possible, but to go sideways very well. But no matter how much money one spends, it won't change the fact that cars aren't meant to go sideways. At its core, drifting is the act of overcoming a car's natural inclination to go in a straight line. However, that doesn't have to be true for all vehicles. To prove it, James Bruton built an omni wheel drift kart.
Bruton designs and builds lots of robots, so he is no stranger to omni wheels. Omni wheels are unique in that their outer surface is lined with rollers offset at an angle. That geometry makes it possible for a vehicle equipped with four omni wheels to drive sideways by vectoring power to the wheels in opposing directions. In this case, Bruton built a custom omni wheel with the rollers oriented parallel to the main hub's axis of rotation. In one direction it moves like a normal wheel, but it can also roll freely perpendicular to that.
That wheel mounts onto the back of the custom welded-steel kart frame. The two front wheels have Hoverboard hub motors as well as a steering column. When driving forward, the Hoveboard wheels provide all of the power and the omni wheel's rollers spin freely. But when Bruton turns the kart, he can engage the omni wheel's brushless DC motor to swing the rear end of the kart out. The result is on-demand drifting.
Coordinating the control of the three motors to drift is complex. Bruton operates the two Hoverboard motors using a foot pedal with a Hall Effect sensor, which sends signals to two large ESCs (Electronic Speed Controllers). On the 3D-printed steering wheel, Bruton mounted two e-bike throttles that control the direction of the omni wheel motor through another ESC. An Arduino Uno mixes all three throttle controls to provide the correct torque vectoring at any given time.
Now we just need Bruton to convince Ken Block to give this drift kart a spin.