ByMarcus O'Shea, writer at
Resident RPG nerd and SoulsBorne fanatic. Can be spotted by their floofy hair.
Marcus O'Shea

If you asked me about the worst possible place to train an AI to drive, Grand Theft Auto V would probably be my second choice after the old Carmageddon games. It's a game where the AI drivers are already potentially murderous psychopaths and the players are even worse. So when I found out a streamer was doing exactly that, I knew I had to check it out.

A Learning AI Car Is Causing Chaos In 'GTA V'

'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]
'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]

Sir, if you want us to supersize your order, you're going to have to back your car off our fry cook.

streamer Harrison Kinsley, better known as Sentdex, has had an interest in creating learning AI for a while now. After learning that self-driving car designers were using to train their own AIs and test them for bugs, he knew he had to give it a go. The results were both fascinating and terrifying.

According to Sentdex, the AI, nicknamed Charles, is, according to his creator, a "convolutional neural network that learns to drive through deep learning.” In practice, this means that he appears to drive only slightly better than my high school girlfriend, who would often go straight over roundabouts on the grounds that it was quicker that way.

'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]
'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]

To be fair, I want to do the same thing when I see some jerk in a cherry red sports car.

Charles's biggest problem when it comes to driving correctly, and not doing things like running over people over and over or trying to grind barricades like a Jet Set Radio Future character is apparently his lack of a shot term memory.

“At the moment, Charles learns and takes all actions based on single frames at a time, and bases his decisions on just pixel data. Charles only sees exactly what you see.

“In time, I intend to give Charles some short-term memory to hopefully improve his driving.”

Essentially, Charles can't really analyze data in relation to data that came even a second before it, because he can't remember what happened. This makes it somewhat difficult to learn the rules of the road for much the same reason that my ninety year old grandmother is no longer allowed to renew her driver's license.

'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]
'Grand Theft Auto V' [Credit: Rockstar Games]

The good news first, you did technically indicate, so you scored at least one point.

Still, it's a lot of fun to watch him cause chaos in the city, especially when he occasionally betrays glimpses of an almost human-like cruelty — such as one point when I was watching where he trapped two people in the archway of a restaurant and would aggressively try to squash them every time they attempted to flee out of the one spot too narrow for him to fit.

Thankfully, the limitations on Charles that produce his hilarious approach to driving also limit him from becoming too advanced, so we aren't quite looking at the future murderous robot apocalypse yet.

At least we hope not, otherwise NieR: Automata is going to look like a walk in the park.

Do you think Charles will spell our doom? Seen any awesome streams experimenting with AI? Let us know in the comments!


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