Just last fall, Elon Musk made the bold claim that driverless cars will be available by the end of 2017 . Sure, Musk may be a bit overambitious, similar to his main goals of a Mars colony and an electric jet still somewhere in the developmental stages. This claim has also been made plenty of times in films like The Fifth Element, Back to the Future II and Blade Runner which feature sci-fi twinged futures complete with a sky highway. But thanks to the highest selling video game of all time, this future is becoming more and more of a possibility. That’s right – cars are learning to drive from Grand Theft Auto V.
At first, you may panic at this shocking news. Have you seen anyone play Grand Theft Auto? Driving the speed limit in GTA is a true test of skill and patience. Forget common courtesy – that’s out the window when your hands touch the controller. Something about the game just unleashes pent up road rage in even the most innocent, kind-hearted gamer. Take it from me. Luckily, for those of us curled up at home, anticipating a South Park AARP Drivers-esque apocalyptic future, you’re in luck. Self-driven cars are actually using the virtual world and the AI Grand Theft Auto has to offer. With hundreds of vehicles, thousands of pedestrians, no worries about gas prices, wrecked test cars, or other confounding variables, a virtual environment is perfect for autonomous testing.
So while video game testing doesn’t seem as reliable or realistic, it’s actually the ideal scientific environment. By eliminating outside variables, testers are able to utilize Grand Theft Auto’s ridiculous level of realism. During the game’s development, Rockstar spent over $137 million on the design, making it the most expensive video game in history. Designers went above and beyond, studying LA rigorously via field research and Google Maps studies. Key staff members watched hours of documentary footage to ensure the city of Los Santos reflected LA’s atmosphere as well as its physical appearance. And in the process, the entire game engine was revamped, with both shooting and driving mechanics drastically improved. In some ways, Grand Theft Auto V boasts the most realistic video game environment ever created and self-driving cars are taking advantage of that fact.
Every day, self-driving cars are becoming more and more likely but they may not exactly be imminent. Even as test cars drive through millions of miles of virtual simulations the same concepts still need to be applied to physical cars and federal regulations still need to be upheld. But you can rest easy knowing our future is in the hands of one of the most violent video games out there.