Volkswagen Wants to Use Quantum Computing to Manage Taxis in Large Cities

If Volkswagen has its way, you'll never be stuck waiting for a cab again.


Volkswagen believes it can bring order to the chaos of urban traffic with quantum computing. Working with quantum-computing specialist D-Wave, VW claims to have developed a system that can accurately predict urban traffic patterns, helping to manage fleets of vehicles such as taxis.

Quantum computers operate using quantum mechanics, the laws of physics that describe the behavior of matter on a subatomic level. This allows them to encode information in more ways than the binary zeroes and ones of conventional digital computers, which in turn allows for greater processing power. In this case, VW tried to harness that power to manage urban traffic.

The experimental traffic management system uses anonymized movement data gathered from smartphones or transmitters in vehicles, according to Volkswagen. Conventional computers use this data to calculate the number of vehicles and people in a given area. Quantum computers then take over to suggest the best ways to deploy vehicles.

This would allow vehicles like taxis and buses to be utilized more efficiently, VW claims. Instead of sitting around waiting for passengers, or driving around empty, vehicles could be sent directly to areas of high demand. This would also mean riders spend less time waiting for a cab, according to the German automaker.

Volkswagen envisions eventually offering traffic management as a commercial service, but for now, the system is just an experiment. The auto manufacturer plans to test the system in Barcelona, Spain because it already has an adequate data set for the busy metropolis. VW and D-Wave previously used quantum computing in a demonstration to see if it could reduce traffic congestion in Beijing.

Traffic management isn't the only potential use for quantum computing eyed by VW. The automaker also believes it can be used in materials science, helping to find new materials for electric car batteries. Elsewhere in the auto industry, Ford is looking to find uses for quantum computing, as the Blue Oval recently partnered with NASA to apply the technology to fleet management and generally become more familiar with it.

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