Driverless cars learn rules of the road courtesy of Grand Theft Auto

Driverless cars are being trained to navigate real world environments by setting the software loose on the streets of Los Santos, the fictional city setting of Grand Theft Auto V.

Whilst it is better known for its car jackings, crashes and police chases the computer environment is considered ideal by the likes of Ford and Google to train up their own offerings while they are still limited from running real world road trials.

The computer environment sprawls over a landscape that is close to a fifth the size of the actual metro area of Los Angeles, incorporating a variety of 14 weather conditions, 262 vehicle types and a cast of over 1,000 AI-controlled pedestrians and animals.

Interest in the game has been rekindled courtesy of work by Darmstadt University of Technology and Intel Labs to strip back the game to its barest driving mechanics within which developers can unleash their software.

This work will augment more traditional forms of research involving the use of traffic cameras and limited real-world road testing.