Sony’s race car AI just destroyed its human competitors – by being nice (and fast)

But Sony soon learned that speed alone wasn’t enough to make GT Sophy a winner. The program surpassed all human drivers on an empty track and set superhuman lap times on three different virtual courses. But when Sony tested GT Sophy in a race against multiple human drivers, requiring both intelligence and speed, GT Sophy lost. The program was sometimes too aggressive, with penalties for reckless driving, and sometimes too timid, giving in when it wasn’t necessary.

Sony has regrouped, retrained its AI and staged a rematch in October. This time GT Sophy won with ease. What made the difference? It’s true that Sony came back with a larger neural network, giving the program more opportunities to draw directly from it. But in the end, the difference came down to giving GT Sophy something that Peter Wurman, head of Sony AI America, calls “etiquette”: the ability to balance his aggression and shyness and choose the most appropriate behavior for the situation.

This is also what makes GT Sophy relevant outside of Gran Turismo. Etiquette between drivers on a track is a specific example of the kind of dynamic, context-aware behavior robots are expected to have when interacting with humans, Wurman says.

An awareness of when to take risks and when to play it safe would be helpful for AI better able to interact with humans, whether on the production floor, in home robots or in driverless cars.

“I don’t think we’ve learned any general principles about how to deal with human standards that you need to respect,” Wurman says. “But it’s a start and hopefully it gives us some insight into this problem in general.”

game changer

GT Sophy is just the latest in a line of AI systems that have beaten the world’s best human players in a variety of games, from chess and Go to video games like Starcraft and DOTA. But Gran Turismo presented Sony with a new kind of challenge. Unlike other games, especially those that are turn-based, Gran Turismo calls on its best players to drive a vehicle on the limits of what is physically possible, in real time and in close proximity to other players all trying the same thing. to do.