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Your first thought was probably to re-read that title, and now that you're satisfied that you did indeed read it correctly, you're intrigued and possible slightly miffed. So before we go any further down the rabbit hole, let me put your mind at ease: the streets of Los Santos are in fact being used to train driverless cars how to drive better.
We live in a world where nearly every automotive company from Ford Motors to Volvo and Tesla are all planning to shape the future of driving by introducing driverless cars in the next 3 years. A lofty goal indeed, considering how little we truly know about creating an intelligence that can respond to something along the lines of a spare tire falling out of the bed of a pickup truck on the freeway.
The race to achieve the safest form of autonomous driving will mark a revolution in the technological community as well as the automotive industry. I'm not talking about the rise of #Skynet, but the implications of the advancement of autonomous driving is an incredible step forward for this generation. With so much work on the horizon for engineers, developers and researchers you'd imagine that they'd pull out all the stops in order to meet the lofty goal of releasing these cars by the year 2020.
This is where the streets of Los Santos come in.
The developers behind these driverless cars have realized that there just aren't enough hours in a day to log the real-world miles to teach their cars how to drive themselves, thus the rise of auto simulation. David Bacchet is leading the simulator project for Nio, a California startup aiming to introduce an autonomous electric car by 2020 and he uses #GTA V as a key component for their research and development, he had this to say about the process:
Just relying on data from the roads is not practical. With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again.
Scientists from Darmstadt University of Technology in Germany along with teams from Intel Labs developed a way to extract the visual information from #GrandTheftAuto V, and now scientists around the world are deriving the algorithms to teach the self-driving technology how handle countless possibilities.
GTA V offers over 200 types of vehicles, thousands of unpredictable animals and humans as well as a dozen different weather conditions - all of which affect road conditions and how a driver (autonomous or human) should react. With miles of roadways to explore across bridges, tunnels and intersections GTA V has proven to be one of the richest virtual environments for data mining.
The information that the engineering teams learn from the virtualized world of Los Santos is never going to be a substitute for actual asphalt, but it allows the computers and researchers to throw nearly limitless scenarios at the autonomous technology to ultimately make it safer than humans behind the wheel.
Either way it seems as though the engineering teams are in for the long haul to experiment with the countless scenarios possible in GTA V sans the heists, rockets and accumulated corpses that seem to pile up in Los Santos.