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VW wants to use quantum computing for traffic management

Its algorithms could make life a lot easier for commuters.


Quantum computing is still very much in the early research and development phase, but Volkswagen already has an idea of how to apply it to the automotive industry.

Volkswagen announced Monday that it has developed a traffic management system with a little help from a quantum algorithm, otherwise known as an algorithm designed to operate on a quantum computer. Its goal is to help mobility providers (e.g. public transportation, taxis) deploy their vehicles to places that need it, reducing wasted time for providers and also reducing wait times for passengers. 

Algorithms work on data, and in this case, VW starts with anonymized movement data gleaned from smart devices and in-vehicle transmitters. It passes that data through a non-quantum algorithm on a standard computer to calculate where and how traffic will accumulate and how many potential passengers will be in any given area. From there, VW turns to the quantum algorithm, which focuses on optimizing that data into something usable.

VW gives an example of how that might work. It could use the output from the quantum algorithm to determine how many people will be in various places around a city, and it could direct a taxi or public transportation service to deploy x amount of vehicles based on that demand. The automaker said it could offer this service commercially, and that it could also work with self-driving cars in the future, either routing them to areas of perceived demand or helping the cars navigate around traffic.

VW wants to put its algorithm to use in Barcelona, a place where the automaker says it has sufficient data to operate. It's working with the telecom company Orange and the data science specialists Teralytics to make this a reality.

Quantum computing is pretty complicated. In essence, it replaces the binary bit (0 or 1) of traditional computing with quantum bits that can be in multiple states at once, theoretically boosting its calculation speed well beyond that of a traditional computer. VW is working with Google and D-Wave on its projects, as VW has not built a quantum computing setup of its own.

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