The popular video game is said to provide simulation data that helps accelerate development.

Automakers have reportedly turned to Grand Theft Auto V for help developing autonomous driving technology.

GTA is said to represent one of several simulation environments employed during vehicle development, providing visual data to test and refine autonomous driving algorithms, according to a Bloomberg report.

The game "is the richest virtual environment that we could extract data from," says Princeton University progressor Alain Kornhauser, an advisor for the school's autonomous vehicle engineering team.

Automakers are no strangers to simulation, using virtual worlds to complete a wide range of tasks from crashworthiness analysis to chassis development. The technology is particularly important for autonomous vehicle development, as engineers must train systems to effectively handle unique scenarios that may not have naturally surfaced during real-world road tests.

Alphabet's Waymo uses simulations to analyze every autonomous disengagement during road tests. If the human driver intervenes and shuts down the autonomous drive system in a prototype vehicle, engineers run the same scenario in a virtual environment to determine how the car would react. The scenario can be repeated as needed to test different software revisions.

Simulation will undoubtedly continue to play a critical role in autonomous vehicle development as major automakers and Silicon Valley players attempt to take the technology from the lab to the showroom in the coming years.