With everyone racing to get ahead in the autonomous vehicle revolutions, developers have realized there just isn’t enough time to clock the real-world miles needed to program and teach cars to operate themselves. Because of this, they’ve reached a point where the video game Grand Theft Auto V (GTAV) could be of some very useful assistance. The game is one of a few simulation platforms researchers are using to test and train the machines being primed to take control of self-driving vehicles.


A lot of companies, like Ford Motor Co., or Google’s Waymo have been working to get their driverless cars on the road in three years. Testing in real-time with physical vehicles have been a big help, however there is still a lot to learn by way of drilling algorithms in ways to respond to unexpected human/random natural errors, like boxes falling off the back of a truck on the highway. It’s impractical to only rely on data pulled from roads, with a simulation, you can run the same scenario an infinite amount of times, testing it in different ways.


Hyper-realistic video games are capable of generating dating that is very close to what artificial-intelligence technology can present on the road. To the average person, this may seem very probable, however, AI software has been using data from games such as Angry Birds or Super Mario Bros. for quite some time. Gathering the problems presented from controlled environments in games help to further advance technology through trial and error.


Researchers from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs have created a way to pull visual information from GTAV software that was then tweaked to be used in the growing self-driving sector. The game has over 1000 unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions, several bridges, traffic, traffic signals, tunnels, and intersections, all from which data can be pulled. Never mind the countless amounts of crime, dead bodies, and seedy situations, it’s not crucial to the research.


Now, it should be said that the fictional and virtual city of Los Santos is still not going to be a bona fide replacement for real genuine asphalt. GTAV is simply “the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from,” said Princeton University professor Alain Kornhauser, who advises the Princteon Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team. Waymo uses their simulators to instruct a confounding motoring system for every possible variation engineers can think of. What has been learned virtually is applied physically, to which problems encountered on the road are studied in a simulation. It looks like video games do have real world implications after all.