Volkswagen Research

Using Quantum Computers to Fight Traffic Jams

  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The Volkswagen Group is the world’s first automaker to use quantum computers and will deploy them to address traffic, a complex problem.

  • Facts

    Facts

    • Quantum computers can solve highly complex problems many times faster than conventional supercomputers. To date, quantum computing technology has been used primarily by scientific institutes, government agencies, and in the aerospace sector.
    • VW is cooperating with quantum computing company D-Wave Systems on a research project for traffic flow optimization.
    • IT experts from the Volkswagen labs in San Francisco and Munich have been the first to develop a smart mobility program on the D-Wave quantum computer.
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  • Audio

    Audio

  • Pdf
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Quantum computers soon could be controlling traffic flows. Source: Getty

Anyone who drives a car through busy streets to work in the morning would love to know how heavy the traffic is going to be ahead of time. Experience might help, but it can’t predict a traffic jam. Volkswagen wants to change this: The carmaker’s IT specialists are working on a solution that informs drivers 45 minutes in advance where gridlock looms.

Scientists and companies have been working on a solution to prevent traffic jams for decades. But predicting the behavior of a system as complex and dynamic as road traffic has proven too complicated time and again.

Now Volkswagen wants to make the breakthrough using quantum computers. While not yet fully developed, these computers promise performance that surpasses today’s systems by several orders of magnitude.

“The quantum computer opens up a whole new horizon,” Martin Hofmann, Volkswagen’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) told Handelsblatt, adding that their immense computing power is ideal for the calculation of extremely complex processes.

Indeed, the device Volkswagen is using in its battle against traffic jams has little in common with a conventional PC. The D-Wave 2000q is a black box about three meters high, which contains a computer chip that fits on a fingernail. In order to fully unfold its enormous computing capacity, it needs to be situated in a vacuum with a temperature near absolute zero. This is a prerequisite to exploit the laws of quantum physics.

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