Command Framework

If you’re coming from C++ or Java, you are probably familiar with the Command based robot paradigm. All of the pieces you’re used to are still here, but this guide might help save you a bit of time as you make the transition.

If you’re starting Command based programming in Python and have no experience with it in other languages, make sure you familiarize yourself with it before proceeding. This guide only covers differences between Python and the other languages’s versions of that paradigm.

For the impatient, a fully-working example program is available. You can start with that and modify it to meet your needs.

The Basics

The structure of a Command based program is simple and predictable. You inherit from the IterativeRobot class, configure the robot in robotInit(), and then run the Scheduler inside the *Periodic() methods.

Writing it can be done rather quickly, but the robotpy-wpilib-utilities package contains a pre-built skeleton class you can inherit, meaning that your program only needs to implement functions unique to your robot. Here is an example:

import wpilib
from commandbased import CommandBasedRobot

from commands import AutonomousCommandGroup

class MyRobot(CommandBasedRobot):

    def robotInit(self):
        '''Initialize things like subsystems'''

        self.autonomous = AutonomousCommandGroup()

    def autonomousInit(self):

Setting up the scheduler and running it are handled by the CommandBasedRobot class. You only need to write the code for *Init() methods you want to use. Since you are overriding that class, you can easily change any functionality that doesn’t work for your robot, though the default implementation should work for most cases.

Error Handling

Crashes happen. Even the most careful programmer can write a command that breaks under unexpected conditions. Normally this will cause your program to reboot, costing precious seconds during a competition. With this in mind, the Scheduler is run inside an exception handler. If a crash happens inside a Command while your robot is connection to the Field Management System (i.e. - during a competition) the exception will be caught, running commands will be canceled, the error will be printed on the driver’s station, and the Scheduler loop will continue running normally.

If you need more advanced error handling functionality, you can override the `handleCrash()` method in your

Pythonic Command Based Programming

All the classes you know from C++ and Java still exists in Python, allowing you to directly port your code with minimal changes. However, you can use some of the advantages of Python to make a few things a bit easier.


In C++ and Java, the recommended way of making subsystems available to Commands is to instantiate them in the init() method of a class that subclasses Command, and then use that as the base class for all of your classes. Even in those languages that can be a bit unwieldy, especially if you want your commands to inherit from multiple base classes.

A more appropriate method in Python is to instantiate your subsystems inside a module, then import that module anywhere you need subsystems. Here is a simple example of that module, which we will call subsystems:

from subsystemtype import SubsystemType

subsystem1 = None

def init():
    global subsystem1

    subsystem1 = SubsystemType()

You can import this module in your and then call subsystems.init() inside robotInit() before any commands are instantiated. Then you can access your subsystem from any Command like this:

import subsystems
from wpilib.command import InstantCommand

class ExampleCommand(InstantCommand):

    def __init__(self):

    def initialize(self):

By using this method you can override any Command provided by WPILib or robotpy-wpilib-utilities, with pythonic namespacing. For even better structure, make subsystems a package that holds the code for all of your subsystems, as demonstrated in the example program.


Having a single place to store your robot’s configuration can be very helpful, and this is why most Command based robots integrate a RobotMap.* file to store port numbers. In Python you can create a robotmap module that will act similarly. There are many different possible ways to manage your ports:

1.) Raw variables:

drive_front_left = 1
drive_front_right = 2
drive_rear_left = 3
drive_rear_right = 4

2.) Dictionary:

drive = {
    'front_left': 1,
    'front_right': 2,
    'rear_left': 3,
    'rear_right': 4

3.) Object Properties:

class PortList():

drive = PortList()

drive.front_left = 1
drive.front_right = 2
drive.rear_left = 3
drive.rear_right = 4

Whichever method you choose, you can utilize it simply by importing:

import robotmap
from wpilib.command import Subsystem

class DriveSubsystem(Subsystem):
    def __init__():
        front_left_motor = robotmap.drive_front_left

Flow Control

Command groups are great tools for writing complex behaviors, especially for the autonomous period. A few commands can be strung together effortlessly, creating a readable flow of behavior. It is possible to run multiple commands at the same time using the parallel scheduling, or force them into order with sequential scheduling.

Conditional commands are a great tool for adding logic to a robotics program. With their introduction it is possible to choose which Command to run based on arbitrarily complex conditions.

Using these two great tools together, however, can be frustrating. If you attempt to use a ConditionalCommand inside a CommandGroup, you can no longer see the complete flow of your logic in a single file. Instead, you must look at a separate ConditionalCommand class. And that ConditionalCommand will reference one or two other commands, which might be command groups with more conditional commands. As the number of files grow, your project directory become more cluttered and tracing the flow becomes more of a chore.

It’s not that you should not encapsulate behaviors. If you have a Command that is called from multiple places, it should be in its own class, but often these conditional commands and command groups are created to facilitate a single complex behavior. The flowcontrol module is meant to address this common issue. It allows a programmer to use common programming idioms that will be automatically converted to conditional commands and command groups.

An example:

import commandbased.flowcontrol as fc
from wpilib.command import CommandGroup
from wpilib import DriverStation

from .drivecommand import DriveCommand
from .turncommand import TurnCommand

def noTarget():
    # Arbitrary logic here
    return False

class Autonomous(CommandGroup):
    ds = DriverStation.getInstance()


    @fc.IF(lambda: ds.getAlliance() == ds.Alliance.Red)
    def turnLeft(self):

    def turnRight(self):


    def turnAround(self):

When the above CommandGroup is instantiated, the decorators from the flowcontrol module will automatically build the correct series of conditional commands and command groups to perform the described steps. The flowcontrol module provides the following functions:

A decorator that turns the function it decorates into a CommandGroup, and calls that in a ConditionalCommand if its argument returns a True value. The argument to IF can be any Python callable, including a lambda or class method. It will be evaluated when the ConditionalCommand is started.
Like IF, but it will only happen if all previous IF and ELIF decorator’s conditions returned False and its condition returns True.
Follows one or more IF and ELIF decorated functions, and only runs if all previous conditions returned False.
Creates a CommandGroup out of the function it decorates, and runs that CommandGroup repeatedly as long as its condition returns True.
This function is not a decorator. It can be placed inline with the addSequential and addParallel directives of a CommandGroup. When this function is encountered, the containing loop will be canceled and execution will continue after the loop. If a number is passed to BREAK, that many levels of loops will be canceled.
Like BREAK, this is not a decorator. When it is encountered the base CommandGroup in the file will be canceled. Nothing after it will be executed.