Driverless cars are using Grand Theft Auto to learn how to drive
Search Driven for vehicles for sale
In the race to the autonomous revolution, developers have realized there aren't enough hours in a day to clock the real-world miles needed to teach cars how to drive themselves. Which is why Grand Theft Auto V is in the mix.
The blockbuster video game is one of the simulation platforms researchers and engineers increasingly rely on to test and train the machines being primed to take control of the family sedan. Companies from Ford Motor Co. to Alphabet Inc.'s Waymo may boast about putting no-hands models on the market in three years, but there's a lot still to learn about drilling algorithms in how to respond when, say, a mattress falls off a truck on the freeway.
If automakers and tech enterprises want to make their deadline, they have to hurry up. The test cars tricked out with lasers, sensors and cameras being put through the paces on tracks and public roads can't do it on their own. Simulators never run out of gas - and the ones at Waymo can model driving more than 3 million miles in a single day.
"Just relying on data from the roads is not practical," said Davide Bacchet, who leads the simulation effort in San Jose, California, for Nio, a startup aiming to introduce an autonomous electric car in the US in 2020. "With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again."
As improbable as it may seem to the lay person, hyper-realistic video games are able to generate data that's very close to what artificial-intelligence agents can glean on the road. AI software has been playing around with games from Super Mario Bros. to Angry Birds for a while now, tackling problems in controlled environments and learning through trial and error.
Last year, scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany and Intel Labs developed a way to pull visual information from Grand Theft Auto V. Now some researchers are deriving algorithms from GTAV software that's been tweaked for use in the burgeoning self-driving sector.
The latest in the franchise from publisher Rockstar Games Inc. is just about as good as reality, with 262 types of vehicles, more than 1,000 different unpredictable pedestrians and animals, 14 weather conditions and countless bridges, traffic signals, tunnels and intersections. (The hoodlums, heists and accumulated corpses aren't crucial components.)
The idea isn't that the highways and byways of the fictional city of Los Santos would ever be a substitute for bona fide asphalt. But the game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," said Alain Kornhauser, a Princeton University professor of operations research and financial engineering who advises the Princeton Autonomous Vehicle Engineering team.
Waymo uses its simulators to create a confounding motoring situation for every variation engineers can think of: having three cars changing lanes at the same time at an assortment of speeds and directions, for instance. What's learned virtually is applied physically, and problems encountered on the road are studied in simulation.
- NZ Herald