Volkswagen Caught The Quantum Love Bug Early — And It’s Beginning to See Results

VW Quantum
Researchers believe quantum computing has the potential to open new areas of exploration.
Image: D-Wave Systems Inc.

Volkswagen was one of the first companies to see the promise of quantum computing in the automotive industry. A company blog post suggests that VW’s quantum team continues to investigate the potential of quantum computing, adding that the scientists are confident that they are close to using quantum to solve huge problems in the industry.

David Von Dollen, lead data scientist for Volkswagen Group of America, said that the company’s quantum experts have been researching to find ways that quantum computing can tackle these challenges since 2016.

“We are focused on output, on trying things, on bringing applications into use,” Von Dollen said.

Volkswagen has teamed up with Canadian quantum computing startup D-Wave and U.S.-based Google.

Quantum Fahrvergnügen
The company sees several ways that quantum can help drivers, not just in making better vehicles but adding a little, at the risk of dating myself, Fahrvergnügen, or driving pleasure

In 2019, the Volkswagen and D-Wave demonstrated the first real-time traffic-routing system to rely on quantum computing to predict traffic volumes and route trips to minimize wait times for passengers and travel times for using buses in Lisbon, Portugal.

Quantum computers may be better suited for these types of problems than classical computers, according to Florian Neukart, Director, Volkswagen Group Data:Lab in Munich.

“Coming from an enterprise point of view, we always check the same questions,” Neukart added. “Where in our company could quantum computing help to solve a problem? Would a quantum application really be more efficient than a classical algorithm here? And if yes, how could this be done?”

Another example of a challenge that quantum can help tackle is at the automotive factory itself – in this case the paint shop. According to the blog post, every vehicle body entering the shop requires one of two types of primer, depending on the final vehicle color. Changing over between primer types is inefficient and can be expensive.

A new quantum algorithm powered was designed to maximize the paint shop efficiency without slowing assembly overall. According to the company, the shops could now run significantly more vehicles in a row. They expect the system to be used soon at Volkswagen factories in Germany, and eventually across the world.

“Challenges like these may sound simple, but in some cases would require near-supercomputer levels of power to solve with traditional hardware,” explained Von Dollen.

The team has found somewhat unexpected places where quantum can be applied in the industry, for example, using quantum computing to set vehicle pricing so that it suits customer demand.

A Quantum-Powered Future

In the future, Volkswagen’s quantum experts expect to use quantum computing to develop new materials or determining the locations of electric vehicle charging stations to maximize their usefulness.

“We see great potential for quantum computing across our entire business,” said Neukart. “Many challenges in the automotive industry can benefit from the inherent power quantum computing can generate.”

Neukart said the goal of the quantum team is to turn quantum research into real-world solutions. It’s more than just an academic pursuit.

“We’re not interested in doing research for research’s sake. We want to bring this technology into the real world,” he said.

Disclosure: I own Google stock and caught non-quantum Fahrvergnügen from a used Jetta in 1988. 

Matt Swayne
Matt Swayne
Matt Swayne is a contributor at The Quantum Daily. He focuses on breaking news about quantum discoveries and quantum computing. Matt enjoys working on -- and with -- startups and is currently working on a media studies master's degree, specializing in science communication.

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