Steering wheel on a tank?
June 29, 2013 10:50 AM   Subscribe

Can a tank have a steering wheel? How does it work?

In the recent, superb anime Girls und Panzer one of Ooarai's tanks is a Renault Char B1 bis. When, several times, we see shots of the girl who is driving it, she has a steering wheel and during Operation Biker Gang (in episode 11) she's swerving it back and forth.

I can't understand how that would work. Most tanks in the show are steered using two levers, each of which brakes the tracks on that side of the tank. Wikipedia says that the steering system is "double differential", which tells me nothing.

What would a steering wheel connect to, and what would it control, on a tracked vehicle? What are the drawbacks? Why did no one else use such a system, if it could be made to work?
posted by Chocolate Pickle to Technology (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: The Tiger I was the first (German) tank with a steering wheel.

See the STEERING UNIT, halfway down this page.
posted by laconic skeuomorph at 10:59 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you turned the wheel right, it would slow or stop the right track, while powering the left track, so it would work the same as the levers, but would be more intuitive for someone used to driving a car.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A steering wheel could work, but you would need to add something (pedal or lever) which controls the speed. The steering wheel would just be used to set the ratio of power applied to each tread.

With the levers you actually control the power applied to each tread independently. So you can apply the full power to the right tread and have essentially no power applied to the left - (i.e. turn left). Or you can apply full power to both - full speed forward.

Driving with levers actually provides more control to the driver than a steering wheel. This makes lots of sense when you might need to make "quick" turns.

In the case of a car you speed most of the time going forward, so a steering wheel makes more sense...
posted by NoDef at 11:01 AM on June 29, 2013

Why this article in Popular Science (July 1985) stuck in my head I'll never know.

But the bookmark only goes to the beginning of the issue, the article starts on page 60. I can't figure out how to make to the page, sorry.
posted by Marky at 11:58 AM on June 29, 2013

From somewhere in the back of my mind is a memory of seeing a tank turning in place without moving forward or backward at all by rotating the treads in opposite directions at the same speed.
posted by jamjam at 12:12 PM on June 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

Modern tanks use a motorcycle-style steering column. Not technically difficult to abstract that to a steering wheel.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:45 PM on June 29, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's just like those zero turning radius lawnmowers that are steered with bars. They take a little getting used to, and after a while, become very easy to use.
posted by gjc at 3:02 PM on June 29, 2013

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