Whether we like it or not, a hell of a lot of research is going into the subject of autonomous cars right now. But there’s a problem: despite the millions of miles Tesla’s Autopilot system is being put through, Google’s extensive real-world testing and much more besides, more data is needed. The answer comes in the form of various simulators, and incredibly, one of those is GTA V.
But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean some crazed researcher is finding out how effective a self-driving car would be against a rocket launcher-wielding Trevor Phillips.
According to a fascinating report from Bloomberg Technology, scientists at Darmstadt University of Technology and Intel Labs worked out a way extract visual information from the game last year, and various companies are using the game for research right now.
The more you think about it, the more you realise GTA V is the perfect environment to take data from. Forget about the explosive-wielding maniacs, and you have a rich environment with miles and miles of diverse roads, over 200 cars and hundreds of pedestrians with an unpredictable nature, just as they would have in real life.
University professor Alain Kornhauser, advisor to Princeton university’s Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team, said that the Los Santos “is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from,” and he seems to have a point.
Speaking about simulations in general meanwhile, Nio’s Davide Bacchet said: “With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again…Just relying on data from the roads is not practical.”
So there we have it: GTA V is a useful research tool, as well as being a rather good fun video game.