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23-03-2017 | Automotive Electronics + Software | News | Article

Volkswagen Trials Quantum Computers

Sven Eisenkrämer
1:30 min reading time

Quantum computers will be the supercomputers of the future. Volkswagen is trialling the use of such computers to solve real-world problems.

The Volkswagen Group is the first automotive company to trial using quantum computers and is collaborating with Canadian specialist D-Wave Systems. At CeBIT 2017 in Hanover, Germany, both companies are announcing their collaboration. Volkswagen is not developing or buying its own costly multimillion-euro computer in the process, but using capacity at D-Wave.

Beijing’s traffic flow optimised

In their first research project, IT experts from Volkswagen developed and tested an algorithm for optimising the traffic flow in Beijing on a D-Wave quantum computer. Instead of the theoretical and abstract problems applied in quantum computer research, such as prime factorisation, VW intends to use quantum computers to solve real-world problems, as Florian Neukart, Principal Data Scientist at the Volkswagen Group IT Code Lab in San Francisco, and quantum computing researcher at Leiden University, explained in an interview with Springer Professional at CeBIT. “We also want to publish our research and results in quantum computing of course”, said Neukart, noting that a number of other German industrial companies and research institutes are interested in participating in this research.

Volkswagen and Neukart expect a wide range of applications such as autonomous driving, robotic enterprise (AI-supported process control), networked manufacturing, machine learning and intelligent mobility solutions.

Not a quantum computer in the conventional sense

Quantum computers can theoretically solve highly complex tasks many times faster than conventional supercomputers. The computing approach of an adiabatic quantum computer such as D-Wave’s is focused on so-called optimisation problems and is not a quantum computer in the conventional sense. 

In simple terms, the issue is how a resource such as time, money or energy can be used optimally in a particular scenario. The complexity of this task and hence the computing power required increase exponentially with the number of factors, so that conventional digital computers quickly reach their limits. According to Neukart, the D-Wave computers use certain effects of quantum physics and quantum mechanics such as quantum tunnelling, quantum entanglement and superposition for efficient optimisation. 

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