New AI beats the best human drivers of Gran Turismo

Tactics used by Sony's AI leave past winners stunned.
Ameya Paleja
A still from the gameGran Turismo

Japanese technology major, Sony's Artificial Intelligence (AI) division has now created an AI agent that can beat the best of human drivers at Gran Turismo (GT), a realistic car racing game.

The company elaborated its efforts in creating this agent named GT Sophy, in a press release, and how it manages to outrace humans in a game that involves many open-ended tactical choices. 

Developed by Polyphony Digital Inc.(PDI), Gran Turismo does a very good job of recreating the environment of real-world racing in the digital realm. Not only does the game feature cars and race tracks closely resemble those in real life but it also incorporates real-world physical phenomena like air resistance and friction from car tires. 

New learning method

Sony ditched the technique of deep learning that is conventionally used to train AI and instead used a novel method of reinforcement learning (RL) to train GT Sophy. In this method, the AI agent went in untrained to race on the courses and each of its actions was either rewarded or penalized depending on the outcomes they led to.

According to details shared by PDI, RL is a recent advancement in AI that is now being applied to the arcade as well as strategy games that allows AI agents to understand the long-term repercussions of their actions and take away the need to hardcode behavior into the agent.   

Using RL, GT Sophy was able to master the gameplay in ways that human race drivers haven't so far. In short, PDI showcases how the AI agent has mastered driving alongside walls without making contact and even overtaking at sharp corners on the clips shared on its website. 

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Pushing the limits

More importantly, the team was also able to train GT Sophy in a way where it could be competitive without being unfair. When overtaking, the AI agent ensures that it does not block the driving line for its competitors and there is sufficient space to maneuver, the company claimed. 

Highly acclaimed players of the game found GT Sophy to have stepped up driving limits by a notch or two and found themselves inspired to race at higher intensities, something that Sony AI was aiming for when it began developing the AI agent. The company is not done yet and wants to integrate AI into the game going into the future. 

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