How Quantum Computing is Already Managing Roads in Megacities

We recently asked D-Wave Systems, the first commercial quantum computing company in the world, if quantum computing would ever have an impact on the automotive industry. We were shocked to find that quantum computing is already in operation, managing traffic flows in the bustling city of Beijing from a Volkswagen laboratory. 

Beijing traffic

Beijing has over 21 million inhabitants and over 5 million cars on its roads. There are regular traffic problems and the locals call the city, “Shoudu”, the capital of traffic jams. Using quantum computing to solve a real world problem is a rarity, with a lot of theoretical research frustratingly unconvincing the general public, but this breakthrough, along with the recent announcement that a team of scientists in Beijing have built an operational quantum computer, shows that quantum supremacy isn’t far away.

Regarding the use of quantum computing in traffic management, IT Expert Bo Ewald said,

“In traditional computing you get the same answers to the same questions all the time, but our quantum computer is probabilistic, like the universe.

On the D-Wave system you don’t get the one answer, you get a distribution of answers, so that maybe 95 percent  of them would mirror the digital result depending on the problem. For some computing benchmarks, D-Wave is still slower than a common mainframe computer, but for specifically engineered problems it can be up to several thousand times faster than a super computer.”

– Bo Ewald

A woman holds a sign displaying the Volkswagen AG (VW) badge ahead of the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing, China, on Monday, April 25, 2016. Tesla Motors Inc. and BYD Co. are among manufacturers showing 147 new-energy vehicles at this year's show. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images
A woman holds a sign displaying the Volkswagen AG (VW) badge ahead of the Beijing International Automotive Exhibition in Beijing, China, on Monday, April 25, 2016. Tesla Motors Inc. and BYD Co. are among manufacturers showing 147 new-energy vehicles at this year’s show. Photographer: Qilai Shen/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Quantum computing is still very much in its infancy, there isn’t even a language for quantum computing and the current climate is one similar to the slow-moving yet eventual progress of the electrical computer in the 1950’s.

Mathematical problems that quantum computers are better at solving than digital computers include route optimisation, which is why Volkswagen are interested in the Beijing traffic management project. DR Florian Neukart, Volkswagen’s principal data scientist said,

“With the route optimization of the Beijing taxis, we want to show that we can solve a very practical problem using a quantum computer – and not just theoretically, as happens during research.

Naturally, the goal is to use the insights for all customers. The taxis in Beijing merely represent a very suitable set of test data. But quantum computers could also help us with other real-time critical applications,  for example, in the lightning-fast self-optimization of robots in production, in autonomous driving, in networked manufacturing, in machine learning, and in intelligent mobility-solutions.”

– Florian Neukart

Roborac3

Autonomous driving could be an interesting avenue, and one that falls into the vicinity of Motorsport with the recent introduction of Roborace onto the Formula E scene. Roborace uses software in replacement of a human driver in order to calculate routes in real-time relative to other Robocars on-track.

With this news from Volkswagen on using quantum computing to optimise routes, and the suggestion that autonomous driving could also benefit from the use of quantum computers, it isn’t too outlandish to suggest that there will be room for quantum computing in Motorsports in the foreseeable future.