VW sees a future in which quantum computers help create efficient traffic-management systems, and it's ready to test such systems today. The German automaker said on Monday that its engineers and data scientists have successfully used a quantum computer algorithm to replace today's basic forecasted traffic volumes.
The quantum computer calculates traffic accumulation and the number of people at "demand spots." VW is largely looking at taxis, public buses, and other public transportation services right now. After analyzing traffic movement data, the algorithm can then assign a precise number of vehicles needed at a demand spot.
Rather than a bus driver looping around a line with few riders, or taxi drivers driving in search of customers, the quantum computer shows where transportation is most needed on a predictive basis. It could also reduce wait times for riders, and transport operators could add additional stops to better meet demand in certain areas or at different times of the day.
VW plans to first test the traffic management system in Barcelona, Spain. The automaker said the city has the right database for the project and it will work with communications service provider Orange and data science specialist Teralytics to implement the system. When proven, VW could offers its quantum-optimized traffic management system as a new commercial service to taxi fleet companies and public transportation systems. VW also sees applications for traffic infrastructure and autonomous vehicles.
The automaker has been all in on quantum computing since it began a partnership with Google in November of last year, though it is partnering with a company called D-Wave on the traffic-management project. VW's goal is to produce self-driving and electric-car technology with the quantum computers that can handle far more complex tasks than a supercomputer. Most recently, VW announced it has used quantum computers to develop tailored batteries for its electric cars.
That's a big deal since it would free up resources and accelerate battery development. Essentially, the computer can simulate a full battery and take weight reduction, maximum power density, or cell assembly into account. Then, it provides a production-ready blueprint without the need for trial and error as part of the engineering process.
Work continues on VW's quantum computer projects at the company's IT labs in San Francisco and Munich. For now, the focus remains on programming, but in the future, quantum computers may do much more.