Watch an AI try to drive through GTA 5 on Twitch without getting killed

There's an AI driving on the streets of Los Santos. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop. Ever. 

...Unless it drives into a tree, or a fence, or careens off an embankment and does a serene, elegant flip into the ocean. Which, it turns out, happens every two or three minutes. But such stops are only temporary for Charles, a "convolutional neural network that learns to drive through deep learning" on the Twitch channel sentdex. Right now, about 2500 people are watching the AI swerve in and out of traffic before inevitably getting stuck on a rock, flipped upside down or sunk underwater.

"At the moment, Charles learns and takes all actions based on single frames at a time, and bases his decisions on just pixel data," the Twitch page reads. "Charles only sees exactly what you see. In time, I intend to give Charles some short-term memory to hopefully improve his driving."

I've watched Charles long enough to see some genuinely impressive driving. The AI can weave between cars and mostly stays in the correct lane, making microadjustments to avoid completely stalling out or smashing directly into another car. But it's not so good at avoiding cross-traffic or taking corners—those usually result in some sidewalk pedestrian casualties. Charles seems to care much more about driving than human life. Let's hope our self-driving cars have slightly different priorities.

Charles' wrecks mostly come when the AI's attempts to avoid traffic send it unpredictably off-road at high speeds. While it may be pretty decent at quickly dodging cars, it doesn't quite have the logic necessary to navigate cramped spaces. Even the worst driver's ed students are better at parking than this.

After the AI determines it's stuck, it resets to a road and starts driving anew. Never tired, never hungry. I find myself oddly hopeful while watching Charles continue on so valiantly. Maybe someday it will get where it's going.

Thanks, Kotaku

Wes Fenlon
Senior Editor

Wes has been covering games and hardware for more than 10 years, first at tech sites like The Wirecutter and Tested before joining the PC Gamer team in 2014. Wes plays a little bit of everything, but he'll always jump at the chance to cover emulation and Japanese games.

When he's not obsessively optimizing and re-optimizing a tangle of conveyor belts in Satisfactory (it's really becoming a problem), he's probably playing a 20-year-old Final Fantasy or some opaque ASCII roguelike. With a focus on writing and editing features, he seeks out personal stories and in-depth histories from the corners of PC gaming and its niche communities. 50% pizza by volume (deep dish, to be specific).