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The Truth About GTA Online's Erratic NPC Drivers

Everyone loves to feel a bit of vindication. After years of being slammed into by NPCs in "Grand Theft Auto Online" for what seems like absolutely no reason, don't you want to hear that you're not the problem? That, actually, the citizens of Los Santos are out to get you, like trapped souls hoping to replace the protagonist by blowing up their car?

Okay, maybe it's not quite that level of tin foil hat conspiracy, but hopefully it's comforting to know that you're not alone. Like this Redditor – who was abruptly t-boned from the opposite lane by an NPC while minding their own business — you're not a bad driver. You're a victim of, perhaps deliberate, chaotic NPC programming.

Of course, just because it happens a lot doesn't necessarily mean we can point the accusatory finger. However, we do have the benefit of hindsight, several YouTube compilations, and a lot of player accounts to help.

Is it really that bad?

Kotaku first reported on this in 2017, after the "Bikers" content update for "GTA Online" was released. Folks hoped it would be a fluke, one of those things where one fix accidentally messed with other features, but the problem persisted, with players reporting that it got even worse after the "Import/Export" update, and then worse again after the "Los Santos Tuners" update. Ever since then, player forums have been inundated with complaints and video examples of NPC drivers doing all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Some players are even spending in-game downtime enacting their revenge by deliberately messing with NPCs.

Players have speculated that these updates somehow impacted the NPCs' inbuilt tendency to avoid combative situations, such as swerving at the sound of gunfire. It's possible that this NPC panic is incorrectly registering the mere presence of a player character as danger, and acting accordingly. One Reddit user points out that this could be exacerbated by lag, meaning that even if the user experiencing the crash isn't being aggressive, a player nearby could be. This whole thing being a long-standing bug wouldn't exactly be a shock; after all, porting issues when creating a unique SKU for "GTA Online" caused players to get banned from the game altogether if they tried to open the game from the story mode of "Grand Theft Auto 5."

Why does it matter?

You could just say that developers are making a joke at the expense of LA residents, who are commonly stereotyped as as erratic drivers. In fact, the Citywide Law Group cites some of the most common causes of collisions in LA as aggressive driving, failing to merge and yield properly, and lane-splitting. Sound familiar? This could all just be one big exercise in realism, a theory that has been shared (perhaps jokingly) by users on the GTA Myths entry for Deadly Drivers.

It could also be Rockstar wanting to spice up driving gameplay a bit, and give off the impression of a dangerous city where the player has to pay attention. This doesn't go well with the community of players, which has existed since GTA's early days, who find it relaxing to drive around normally.

It also irritates players who are trying to complete certain missions where they have to get a vehicle from point A to point B in one piece. It sucks to be in the final stretch of a job, anticipating that nice lump sum of ill-gotten gains, only to get sideswiped by someone at the last second. And, when things are so expensive in "GTA Online" as it is (both in-game and when it comes to next-gen upgrades), having that hard-earned cash taken from you by elements you can't control is a kick in the teeth.