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Just got this off the UK Scobbynet forums. Pretty interesting.

"Hi All

The clever boffins at Prodrive have been very busy of late. They've developed a stunning new system called ATD (Automatic Torque Distribution) and I was honoured to be invited to shake it down today. I thought you would want to hear about it as (for performance car drivers) it has to be the most exciting technology to be developed for some time.

The system is similar in essence to the complex array of hydraulic diffs, g-sensors and computers that guide the newest WRC cars through the twisty stages of the World Rally Championship, except that it has been programmed for a slightly different reason.

In a rally car, the software is designed to make the car very unstable, so a driver with world-class levels of skill an experience can command it to do exactly what he wants at any moment. What the guys at Prodrive have been able to do is transfer important parts of that driver skill and place it in the car itself! This basically means that the car recognises what the driver's inputs are telling it they want the car to do, and just kind of makes the car do it!

I have to admit to being a little nervous as I took control of this one-off prototype WRX fitted with the ATD system. I absolutely HATE driver aid systems that take control of your commands and say "Nah! you didn't REALLY want to do that, so .. tell you what.. I'll take it from here shall I?", so I wasn't actually looking forward to it that much either.

We set off down the first short straight of Prodrive's high speed test circuit at Fen End towards the third / fourth gear sweeping right hander. Damien Harty (Chief Engineer) tells me in a calm and slightly bored sounding voice "OK, just stick it in here and then just give it death if you like!". The complete absence of fear or even intrigue was a little unsettling.. he is COMPLETELY confident in the car, so doesn't even need to get comfortable with the driver.

So I thought.. "OK then! I bloody will!"

Up to the point of hitting the gas, the car felt like any other stable WRX, slight understeer, feathering the steering to keep it on track so the front didn't start drifting wide, but then... OH MY GOD! I hit the gas and the whole system lit up and changed the car in to a hairy chested animal that purposefully and sure-footedly spun up the rear wheels and stuck itself sideways.. not too much, not too little just as much as the amount of steering I'd put in would tell the system I wanted. It was like the car went from Driving Miss Daisy to Marcus Gronholm in a split second - at over 80MPH on slippy wet tarmac.

But the most amazing thing, was that there was no shock or sudden lurch to put the wind up you, it just kind of did it!! Very smooth, and very precise.

The instant reaction was to wind off a little steering and start considering opposite lock in order to balance the slide, but the more steering I wound off, the more the system decided I didn't want to be as sideways and simple moved power around and opened / tightened diffs as it's brain saw fit and just settled the car a little less sideways. So I kept the power on and eventually straightened the wheel out at over 90MPH by now, about 3 feet away from the outside edge of the exit of the bend and the car smoothly settled into the job of reaching the next braking point as soon as humanly possible. Staggering!

How many times have you been going round a turn circle in your scoob and thought "I wish I could just give it a bit of throttle and the back would step out, then I could just guide it round on the steering"? Well the problem is that AWD cars spin up the front wheels usually prior to the rear so you have to be incredibly aggressive to get the thing sideways. Rear wheel drive is what you want for those situations. But then... there's something really nice about knowing that, in a scoob you can usually just get back on the gas when things are going wrong and it will tuck itself back in.. can't do that in a RWD car. This system is the very best of all worlds. You can drive it on the power like a RWD car and you can enjoy the traction, stability and safety of AWD at the same time.

Not good enough for you? After I'd got a bit more used to the system and was happily throwing it round the wet circuit I realised that it was so incredibly good that I could go in to corners with absolutely any angle of sideways action I wanted, safe in the knowledge that if it all gets a bit "brown trousers" I could just hit the gas and steer where I wanted the car to go. But I was starting to think that the system would bore me after a while as there are just NO surprises and nothing you have to deal with as a driver. So Damien throws the “scary switch”. Switching the system to setting 3 (instead of 2 - which we had been on) changes the car in a COMPLETELY different animal. Now it becomes TOTALLY driver controlled but just allows controllable power oversteer - just like a RWD car and helps you out when you want to do things like change direction quickly, it basically sets all the diffs in real time to give you exactly what you're looking for.

Damien thinks one of the best parts of the system is that it is feasible that you will be able to make your own maps for the handling, or buy "track day" maps, etc, etc so you can make the one car behave in any number of different ways, and you can make it do anything you want based on your own style of driving.

The system is designed for 2 main groups of people. People who love the powerful abilities of AWD, but dream about having RWD handling again, and people who want to drive like Colin McRae but can't be bothered with all that “learning to drive” rubbish!!!! (those two groups cover just about everyone here I reckon! )

The system is not immediately planned for release, prodrive are talking to a number of companies who are very interested in the system, so it could be something we see on road cars in the near future."
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