Volkswagen hopes to end congestion with Google quantum computers

Route to traffic optimisation, better batteries and machine learning for driverless cars

When it went on sale in North America in the early '80s, Volkswagen’s hugely successful Passat model was rebranded as the 'VW Quantum'. It sold in the tens of thousands, at first, before sales fizzled out completely.

The car manufacturer is hoping for more success with its second quantum vehicle: A quantum computing partnership with Google, which was announced this week.

Specialists from the Volkswagen IT labs in San Francisco and Munich are developing algorithms, simulations and optimisations working with Google to run them using "Google universal quantum computers".

Google is working towards demonstrating a 49-qubit quantum computer by the end of the year.

"This architecture is suitable for many experimental computing operations," the German car giant said in a statement.

“Quantum computing technology opens up new dimensions and represents the fast-track for future-oriented topics. We at Volkswagen want to be among the first to use quantum computing for corporate processes as soon as this technology is commercially available," said Martin Hofmann, chief information officer of the Volkswagen Group.

There are three areas of research. The first concerns traffic optimisation, building on a completed project revealed earlier this year.

In March, VW revealed details of a research project with D-Wave to optimise traffic flows in Beijing, using data from 10,000 public taxis.

"Our first traffic flow optimization project in Beijing successfully shows how an algorithm on a quantum computer can guide vehicles in a metropolis in such an intelligent way that congestion is avoided. The results give us confidence for further applications on the quantum computer," Dr Florian Neukart, principal data scientist at VW's IT Code Lab in San Francisco said at the time.

VW said the project resulted in significantly reduced travel time for taxi journeys. Next steps will consider additional variables including urban traffic guidance systems, and the best routes to available electric charging stations or vacant parking spaces.

A second project will simulate and optimise the structure of high-performance batteries for electric vehicles. VW hope to uncover better vehicle construction methods and improve high-performance batteries for electric vehicles.

The third research area concerns the development of new machine learning processes and their use in autonomous driving systems.

“Volkswagen has enormous expertise in solving important, real-world engineering problems, and it is an honor for us to collaborate on how quantum computing may be able to make a difference in the automotive industry,” said Hartmut Neven, director of the Google Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

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