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Intelligent traffic control with quantum computers

Traffic control is one of the many areas where quantum computers could be used. An innovative project by Volkswagen: Avoiding traffic jams and shortening waiting times using quantum algorithms.

Quantum computers help to avoid traffic jams in cities

12:17 pm, Plaça de Catalunya, in the middle of Barcelona's city centre, seven taxis are needed, seven are there. Coincidence? So far, yes, maybe not any more in the future. Volkswagen experts have developed a program on a quantum computer that precisely predicts future traffic volumes, demand for transport and the duration of each journey. This helps to avoid traffic jams and shorten waiting times.

On a quantum computer from D-Wave, one of the world's leading companies in the field of quantum computing, urban motion flows in a large city like Barcelona can now be calculated so precisely that it is possible to predict who wants to use which means of transport when and where.

Volkswagen uses the information on movement flows to inform transport companies and taxi companies where and when they should be on site with how many vehicles. This means that taxis and buses that travel long distances without passengers or wait a long time for their customers to arrive would be a thing of the past, as would missing vehicles in places where demand is high.

Quantum Computers are Optimization Specialists

The digital forecast of mobility flows is calculated in the classical way. The optimization of the car fleet, however, is performed by a quantum chip. Quantum computers can solve highly complex tasks many times faster than conventional super computers. These include, for example, so-called optimization problems – in simplified terms, the question of how a resource such as time, money or energy can be used optimally in a certain scenario. Mobility of the future, computer-based optimized to make life easier for people in a digitized city.

Technician is working on a quantum computer from D-Wave

“What makes the now developed solution so special is the possibility to scale it to any city,” says Florian Neukart, Principal Scientist at Volkswagen's CODE Lab in San Francisco. “Size, infrastructure, traffic volume – quantum computers enable us to adapt our solution to all conceivable conditions.”

Robert “Bo” Ewald, President of D-Wave

The Volkswagen Group is the world's first automotive company to intensively test the use of quantum computers. “The combination of our highly-developed quantum technology with the expertise of Volkswagen experts makes it possible to solve everyday problems that already have great significance today but will take on an even greater dimension in the future as a result of increasing urbanization. Here we are doing pioneering work together.”

Volkswagen Group CIO Martin Hofmann presented the traffic control project at the WebSummit in Lisbon

The solution recently presented at the WebSummit technology conference is the next milestone for Volkswagen and D-Wave. The two companies have been working together since 2017 and have already successfully demonstrated in a previous research project based on data from 10,000 public taxis in Beijing that they can use a quantum computer to optimize traffic flow in the mega metropolis. The quantum-optimized traffic management system now presented also offers the potential to be offered commercially.