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Volkswagen Uses Quantum Computing to Fight Beijing Traffic

Volkswagen teamed with D-Wave Systems to run a traffic-flow algorithm on a quantum computer, with encouraging results.

Beijing is one of the most crowded cities in the world, but Volkswagen believes it has found a powerful tool to bring order to the Chinese’ cities chaotic traffic conditions.

The German automaker recently conducted an experiment with D-Wave Systems, which specializes in quantum computing. VW developed an algorithm to optimize traffic flow, and tested it on one of D-Wave’s quantum computers using data from 10,000 Beijing taxis. The algorithm was successfully able to reduce traffic by choosing the ideal path for each vehicle, according to VW.

Quantum computers are faster and more powerful than conventional digital supercomputers. They operate based on quantum mechanics, the laws of physics that describe the behavior of matter on a subatomic level. This allows quantum computers to encode information in more ways than the binary “0s” and “1s” of conventional computers, which lets them perform calculations faster.

Volkswagen claims to be the first automaker to experiment with quantum computing in this way, but it isn’t the first entity to try to use data to manage traffic. Last year, the World Bank partnered with multiple ridesharing services to use GPS data from taxis to decrease congestion. Uber has also experimented with providing user to data to city governments for analysis.

VW believes quantum computing could have applications in autonomous driving, robotic manufacturing, machine learning, and “intelligent mobility solutions.” It plans to continue experimenting with the technology, focusing on “further development of specialist expertise and entrepreneurially-meanigful applications” in the short term.