Buzz and hype aside, something is going on in quantum computing (QC) that is hard to miss, and the technology will have real implications for the automotive industry. Much of the excitement relates to recent scientific leaps in the field as well as the development of the first industrial use cases, including those in the automotive and transportation sectors.
Recent headlines about QC reflect the excitement. IBM drew attention across the tech world when it announced the creation of Q System One, a quantum computer confined to a nine-foot cube, in 2018. In another big advance, D-Wave Technologies announced a QC chip with 5,000 “qubits,” more than doubling its own previous 2,000-qubit record (see sidebar “What’s different about quantum computing?”).
SidebarWhat’s different about quantum-computing applications?Instead of using traditional bits as information-processing units, QC depends on quantum bits or “qubits.” Players can physically generate qubits many ways, such as by trapping supercooled calcium ions in a magnetic field and creating interlinked superconducting capacitor circuits. Possible effects observed on a quantum level include superposition (how waves either add to each other or cancel out, as in noise-canceling headphones) and quantum entanglement (where particles remain connected such that an action on one will affect the other, even at great distances).Shor’s algorithm shows how much QC can improve processing time. Designed to run on quantum computers to find the prime factors of a given integer, it is almost exponentially faster than the best conventional factoring algorithm.
The automotive industry has been following these developments, since QC provides computational improvements that could boost capabilities across the value chain. Several OEMs and tier-one suppliers have already begun investigating QC’s ability to benefit the industry and resolve some existing issues, including those related to route optimization, fuel-cell optimization, and material durability. Several are now showcasing the first pilot use cases. Volkswagen, for example, has partnered with D-Wave to demonstrate a traffic-management system to optimize the individual travel routes of nine public-transit buses during the 2019 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal. Bosch, a German tier-one supplier, has acquired a stake in Zapata Computing, contributing to a $21 million Series A investment in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based quantum start-up.
Although QC has great potential in the automotive sector and could translate into billions of dollars in value, OEMs and other stakeholders face some obstacles. The novelty of this technology combined with the relatively small market that has emerged thus far have prevented many automotive players from developing a clear QC strategy. To assist them, we reviewed QC’s maturity and its potential in the automotive sector. We also examined opportunities for automotive stakeholders and potential next steps.
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