Driverless cars that work are cool, but using another company’s work without their permission maybe isn’t.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported that manufacturers of driverless cars were using video game environments as a testing ground to help teach their cars how to drive themselves. One video game in particular became the go-to for the impressive work that went into its streets: Grand Theft Auto V.
Researchers connected to Intel Labs figured out a way to modify GTAV‘s engine and algorithms to set up a simulation that would allow companies to track car data on the streets of Los Santos.
The resources needed to test AI on self-driving cars in the real-world are extensive, but a video game environment allows for much easier use. It’s not perfect — because, as accurate as the physics in a game can be, it’s still not the real world — but it certainly helps move the process along at a faster rate. Researchers can study a car’s response to obstacles and various scenarios incrementally, and make changes on the fly as needed. Rinse and repeat. You can’t really do that in the real without without spending tons of hours on it.
As Bloomberg reported:
“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 U.S. in 2020. “With simulation, you can run the same scenario over and over again for infinite times, then test it again.”
A fascinating use of technology, to be sure. But Rockstar sent us a statement today highlighting the other side to this. “We welcome discussions about the use of our technology to help further academic research, but it’s obviously not appropriate for corporations to take our work and use it for their own financial interests or for researchers to distribute unlicensed copies of our code as part of their work without first seeking our permission,” the company said.
Technically, no one seems to be directly profiting off of using the GTAV engine just yet. But it certainly paves the way for that to happen. Like, for instance, if companies like Google grab this data to get a leg up on, say, Tesla, who have bragged about the number of hours they’ve logged testing their driverless cars. Video game modifications have always been a little tricky, legally-speaking, but particularly once money comes into the equation.