ESP8266 - Control Car via Web

This tutorial instructs you how to use the ESP8266 to wirelessly control a robot car from a Web browser on your smartphone or PC using WiFi. The control is facilitated through a graphical web user interface using something called WebSocket, allowing for smooth and dynamic control of the car.

ESP8266 NodeMCU controls robot car via Web

Hardware Preparation

1×ESP8266 NodeMCU
1×Micro USB Cable
1×2WD RC Car
1×L298N Motor Driver Module
1×IR Remote Controller Kit
1×CR2025 Battery (for IR Remote controller)
1×1.5V AA Battery (for ESP8266 and Car)
1×Jumper Wires
1×(Optional) ESP8266 Screw Terminal Adapter

Or you can buy the following sensor kit:

1×DIYables Sensor Kit 30 types, 69 units
Disclosure: Some of the links provided in this section are Amazon affiliate links. We may receive a commission for any purchases made through these links at no additional cost to you. We appreciate your support.

Overview of 2WD RC Car and WebSocket

Now, why go for WebSocket? Here's the scoop:

  • Without WebSocket, changing the car's direction would require reloading the page every time. Not ideal!
  • However, with WebSocket, we establish a special connection between the webpage and the ESP8266. This enables sending commands to the ESP8266 in the background, without needing to reload the page. The result? The robot car moves seamlessly and in real-time. Pretty cool, right?

In a nutshell, the WebSocket connection enables the smooth, real-time control of the robot.

We have specific tutorials about 2WD RC Car and WebSocket. Each tutorial contains detailed information and step-by-step instructions about hardware pinout, working principle, wiring connection to ESP8266, ESP8266 code... Learn more about them at the following links:

How It Works

The ESP8266 code creates both a web server and a WebSocket Server. Here's how it works:

  • When you enter the ESP8266's IP address in a web browser, it requests the webpage (User Interface) from the ESP8266.
  • The ESP8266's web server responds by sending the webpage's content (HTML, CSS, JavaScript).
  • Your web browser then displays the webpage.
  • The JavaScript code within the webpage establishes a WebSocket connection to the WebSocket server on the ESP8266.
  • Once this WebSocket connection is established, if you press/release the buttons on the webpage, the JavaScript code quietly sends the commands to the ESP8266 through this WebSocket connection in the background.
  • The WebSocket server on the ESP8266, upon receiving the commands, controls the robot car accordingly.

The below table show commands list that the webpage sends to ESP8266 based on the user's actions:

User's Action Button Command Car Action

Wiring Diagram between 2WD RC Car and ESP8266

The wiring diagram between ESP8266 NodeMCU and 2WD RC Car

This image is created using Fritzing. Click to enlarge image

See more in ESP8266's pinout and how to supply power to the ESP8266 and other components.

Typically, you need two power sources:

  • One for the motor via the L298N module.
  • Another for the ESP8266 board, L298N module (Motor driver).

But, you can simplify it using just one power source for everything – four 1.5V batteries (totaling 6V). Here's how:

  • Connect the batteries to the L298N module as shown.
  • Place two jumpers from ENA and ENB pins to 5 volts on the L298N module.
  • Remove a jumper labeled 5VEN (yellow circle on the diagram).
  • Do the remaining wiring as above diagram.

Since the 2WD RC car has an on/off switch, you can optionally connect the battery via the switch to enable turning on/off power for the car. If you want to make it simple, just ignore the switch.

ESP8266 Code

The webpage's content (HTML, CSS, JavaScript) are stored separately on an index.h file. So, we will have two code files on Arduino IDE:

  • An .ino file that is ESP8266 code, which creates a web sever and WebSocket Server, and controls car
  • An .h file, which contains the webpage's content.

Detailed Instructions

To get started with ESP8266 on Arduino IDE, follow these steps:

  • Check out the how to setup environment for ESP8266 on Arduino IDE tutorial if this is your first time using ESP8266.
  • Wire the components as shown in the diagram.
  • Connect the ESP8266 board to your computer using a USB cable.
  • Open Arduino IDE on your computer.
  • Choose the correct ESP8266 board, such as (e.g. NodeMCU 1.0 (ESP-12E Module)), and its respective COM port.* On Arduino IDE, create new sketch, Give it a name, for example,
  • Copy the below code and open with Arduino IDE
/* * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code was developed by * * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code is made available for public use without any restriction * * For comprehensive instructions and wiring diagrams, please visit: * */ #include <ESP8266WiFi.h> #include <ESP8266WebServer.h> #include <WebSocketsServer.h> #include "index.h" #define CMD_STOP 0 #define CMD_FORWARD 1 #define CMD_BACKWARD 2 #define CMD_LEFT 4 #define CMD_RIGHT 8 #define IN1_PIN D2 // The ESP8266 pin connected to the IN1 pin L298N #define IN2_PIN D5 // The ESP8266 pin connected to the IN2 pin L298N #define IN3_PIN D6 // The ESP8266 pin connected to the IN3 pin L298N #define IN4_PIN D7 // The ESP8266 pin connected to the IN4 pin L298N const char* ssid = "YOUR_WIFI_SSID"; // CHANGE IT const char* password = "YOUR_WIFI_PASSWORD"; // CHANGE IT ESP8266WebServer server(80); // Web server on port 80 WebSocketsServer webSocket = WebSocketsServer(81); // WebSocket server on port 81 void webSocketEvent(uint8_t num, WStype_t type, uint8_t* payload, size_t length) { switch (type) { case WStype_DISCONNECTED: Serial.printf("[%u] Disconnected!\n", num); break; case WStype_CONNECTED: { IPAddress ip = webSocket.remoteIP(num); Serial.printf("[%u] Connected from %d.%d.%d.%d\n", num, ip[0], ip[1], ip[2], ip[3]); } break; case WStype_TEXT: //Serial.printf("[%u] Received text: %s\n", num, payload); String angle = String((char*)payload); int command = angle.toInt(); Serial.print("command: "); Serial.println(command); switch (command) { case CMD_STOP: Serial.println("Stop"); CAR_stop(); break; case CMD_FORWARD: Serial.println("Move Forward"); CAR_moveForward(); break; case CMD_BACKWARD: Serial.println("Move Backward"); CAR_moveBackward(); break; case CMD_LEFT: Serial.println("Turn Left"); CAR_turnLeft(); break; case CMD_RIGHT: Serial.println("Turn Right"); CAR_turnRight(); break; default: Serial.println("Unknown command"); } break; } } void setup() { Serial.begin(9600); pinMode(IN1_PIN, OUTPUT); pinMode(IN2_PIN, OUTPUT); pinMode(IN3_PIN, OUTPUT); pinMode(IN4_PIN, OUTPUT); // Connect to Wi-Fi WiFi.begin(ssid, password); while (WiFi.status() != WL_CONNECTED) { delay(1000); Serial.println("Connecting to WiFi..."); } Serial.println("Connected to WiFi"); // Initialize WebSocket server webSocket.begin(); webSocket.onEvent(webSocketEvent); // Serve a basic HTML page with JavaScript to create the WebSocket connection server.on("/", HTTP_GET, []() { Serial.println("Web Server: received a web page request"); String html = HTML_CONTENT; // Use the HTML content from the servo_html.h file server.send(200, "text/html", html); }); server.begin(); Serial.print("ESP8266 Web Server's IP address: "); Serial.println(WiFi.localIP()); } void loop() { // Handle client requests server.handleClient(); // Handle WebSocket events webSocket.loop(); // TO DO: Your code here } void CAR_moveForward() { digitalWrite(IN1_PIN, HIGH); digitalWrite(IN2_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN3_PIN, HIGH); digitalWrite(IN4_PIN, LOW); } void CAR_moveBackward() { digitalWrite(IN1_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN2_PIN, HIGH); digitalWrite(IN3_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN4_PIN, HIGH); } void CAR_turnLeft() { digitalWrite(IN1_PIN, HIGH); digitalWrite(IN2_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN3_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN4_PIN, LOW); } void CAR_turnRight() { digitalWrite(IN1_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN2_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN3_PIN, HIGH); digitalWrite(IN4_PIN, LOW); } void CAR_stop() { digitalWrite(IN1_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN2_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN3_PIN, LOW); digitalWrite(IN4_PIN, LOW); }
  • Create the index.h file On Arduino IDE by:
    • Either click on the button just below the serial monitor icon and choose New Tab, or use Ctrl+Shift+N keys.
    Arduino IDE 2 adds file
    • Give the file's name index.h and click OK button
    Arduino IDE 2 adds file index.h
    • Copy the below code and paste it to the index.h.
    /* * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code was developed by * * This ESP8266 NodeMCU code is made available for public use without any restriction * * For comprehensive instructions and wiring diagrams, please visit: * */ const char *HTML_CONTENT = R"=====( <!DOCTYPE html> <html> <head> <title>ESP8266 Control Car via Web</title> <meta name="viewport" content="width=device-width, initial-scale=0.7, maximum-scale=1, user-scalable=no"> <style type="text/css"> body { text-align: center; font-size: 24px;} button { text-align: center; font-size: 24px;} #container { margin-right: auto; margin-left: auto; width: 400px; height: 400px; position: relative; margin-bottom: 10px; } div[class^='button'] { position: absolute; } .button_up, .button_down { width:214px; height:104px;} .button_left, .button_right { width:104px; height:214px;} .button_stop { width:178px; height:178px;} .button_up { background: url('') no-repeat; background-size: contain; left: 200px; top: 0px; transform: translateX(-50%); } .button_down { background: url('') no-repeat; background-size: contain; left:200px; bottom: 0px; transform: translateX(-50%); } .button_right { background: url('') no-repeat; background-size: contain; right: 0px; top: 200px; transform: translateY(-50%); } .button_left { background: url('') no-repeat; background-size: contain; left:0px; top: 200px; transform: translateY(-50%); } .button_stop { background: url('') no-repeat; background-size: contain; left:200px; top: 200px; transform: translate(-50%, -50%); } </style> <script> var CMD_STOP = 0; var CMD_FORWARD = 1; var CMD_BACKWARD = 2; var CMD_LEFT = 4; var CMD_RIGHT = 8; var img_name_lookup = { [CMD_STOP]: "stop", [CMD_FORWARD]: "up", [CMD_BACKWARD]: "down", [CMD_LEFT]: "left", [CMD_RIGHT]: "right" } var ws = null; function init() { var container = document.querySelector("#container"); container.addEventListener("touchstart", mouse_down); container.addEventListener("touchend", mouse_up); container.addEventListener("touchcancel", mouse_up); container.addEventListener("mousedown", mouse_down); container.addEventListener("mouseup", mouse_up); container.addEventListener("mouseout", mouse_up); } function ws_onmessage(e_msg) { e_msg = e_msg || window.event; // MessageEvent //alert("msg : " +; } function ws_onopen() { document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "OPEN"; document.getElementById("wc_conn").innerHTML = "Disconnect"; } function ws_onclose() { document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "CLOSED"; document.getElementById("wc_conn").innerHTML = "Connect"; console.log("socket was closed"); ws.onopen = null; ws.onclose = null; ws.onmessage = null; ws = null; } function wc_onclick() { if(ws == null) { ws = new WebSocket("ws://" + + ":81"); document.getElementById("ws_state").innerHTML = "CONNECTING"; ws.onopen = ws_onopen; ws.onclose = ws_onclose; ws.onmessage = ws_onmessage; } else ws.close(); } function mouse_down(event) { if ( !== event.currentTarget) { var id =; send_command(id); = "url('" + img_name_lookup[id] + "_active.png')"; } event.stopPropagation(); event.preventDefault(); } function mouse_up(event) { if ( !== event.currentTarget) { var id =; send_command(CMD_STOP); = "url('" + img_name_lookup[id] + "_inactive.png')"; } event.stopPropagation(); event.preventDefault(); } function send_command(cmd) { if(ws != null) if(ws.readyState == 1) ws.send(cmd + "\r\n"); } window.onload = init; </script> </head> <body> <h2>ESP8266 - RC Car via Web</h2> <div id="container"> <div id="0" class="button_stop"></div> <div id="1" class="button_up"></div> <div id="2" class="button_down"></div> <div id="8" class="button_right"></div> <div id="4" class="button_left"></div> </div> <p> WebSocket : <span id="ws_state" style="color:blue">closed</span><br> </p> <button id="wc_conn" type="button" onclick="wc_onclick();">Connect</button> <br> <br> <div class="sponsor">Sponsored by <a href="">DIYables</a></div> </body> </html> )=====";
    • Now you have the code in two files: and index.h
    • Click Upload button on Arduino IDE to upload code to ESP8266
    • Open the Serial Monitor
    • Check out the result on Serial Monitor.
    Connecting to WiFi... Connected to WiFi ESP8266 Web Server's IP address IP address:
    Autoscroll Show timestamp
    Clear output
    9600 baud  
    • Take note of the IP address displayed, and enter this address into the address bar of a web browser on your smartphone or PC.
    • You will see the webpage it as below:
    ESP8266 NodeMCU controls car via web browser
    • The JavaScript code of the webpage automatically creates the WebSocket connection to ESP8266.
    • Now you can control the car to turn left/right, move forward/backward via the web interface.

    To save the memory of ESP8266, the images of the control buttons are NOT stored on ESP8266. Instead, they are stored on the internet, so, your phone or PC need to have internet connection to load images for the web control page.

    ※ NOTE THAT:

    • If you modify the HTML content in the index.h and does not touch anything in file, when you compile and upload code to ESP8266, Arduino IDE will not update the HTML content.
    • To make Arduino IDE update the HTML content in this case, make a change in the file (e.g. adding empty line, add a comment....)

    Line-by-line Code Explanation

    The above ESP8266 code contains line-by-line explanation. Please read the comments in the code!