Volkswagen accelerates quantum computing research

Written by Hannah McGrath

The Volkswagen Group has announced a new breakthrough in the race towards public transport and taxi solutions powered by quantum computing.

The German automobile group revealed it has developed a new quantum algorithm which could be applied to public transport and traffic management systems to drive efficiencies and minimise waiting times for passengers, particularly with the anticipated arrival of autonomous vehicles.

Announcing the research milestone at the WebSummit event in Lisbon, Volkswagen and quantum computing company D-Wave said they had developed a quantum-optimised traffic management system that will replace forecasting for urban traffic volumes, transport demand and travel times with precise calculations.

Quantum computers can solve highly complex tasks much faster than conventional supercomputers due to ultra-high processing speeds.

Volkswagen said it sees considerable potential in using the quantum technology for building new applications and business models.

To develop the new traffic management system, Volkswagen’s technologists first analysed anonymised movement data - from smartphones or transmitters in vehicles - with conventional computers to calculate traffic accumulation and the number of people involved.

The second step, optimisation, is completed with a quantum algorithm. For example, it is possible to assign precise numbers of vehicles to different destinations or ‘demand spots’ on a predictive basis to provide transportation for all waiting passengers.

The Volkswagen experts first want to test the algorithm in Barcelona, as they believe they have built up a adequate database for the technology to work in the city.

Florian Neukart, principal scientist at Volkswagen’s CODE Lab in San Francisco, said: “Public transport organisations and taxi companies in large cities are highly interested in managing their fleets efficiently; our quantum-optimised traffic management system could help make that a reality.”

Bo Ewald, president of D-Wave, added: “Volkswagen’s innovative work using D-Wave quantum computers to pursue applications in traffic optimization is an example of the real-world impact quantum computing can have on business operations and people’s everyday lives.”