Volkswagen Group has announced a collaboration with Google on quantum computing research.
IHS Markit Perspective
- Significance: Volkswagen (VW) is accelerating its future vehicle and mobility efforts with a programme with Google that will see the two companies work together on three separate development areas on a Google quantum computer.
- Implications: The three areas in question are: using digital tools in the field of traffic optimisation; material simulations for high-performance electric vehicle batteries and other vehicle materials; and new machine-learning processes.
- Outlook: This is a far-sighted initiative that will support VW's transformation from solely a traditional vehicle manufacturer to a provider of future mobility services, which is part of the company's stated goals in its "TOGETHER – Strategy 2025" programme. Its collaboration with Google will help VW evolve its technology and research and development processes, while at the same time it could also, in the longer term, help provide novel and exciting new technologies that could accelerate the paradigm shift that is set to occur in the automotive industry over the next two to three decades.
Volkswagen (VW) Group has announced a collaboration with Google on quantum computing research. As part of this project, VW Group IT is launching quantum computing in three development areas on a Google quantum computer, according to a statement by the German automaker. VW said, "The two companies will explore the utilization of quantum computers together, with aims to build up specialist knowledge and to carry out practically oriented research. As part of this collaboration, a team of specialists from Volkswagen and Google will work together using a Google quantum computer. Quantum computers can solve certain highly complex tasks considerably faster than conventional supercomputers. In some cases, a solution will only be possible with quantum computers." VW will use this opportunity for research in three initial areas. The first of these is traffic optimisation, a project that will build on one already successfully completed, VW states. The new project will consider additional variables to those researched in the earlier one, such as urban traffic guidance systems, available electric charging stations, and vacant parking spaces, in addition to looking at reducing travel times. The second project area is related to electric vehicle (EV) battery development. VW will simulate and optimise the structure of high-performance batteries for EVs, as well as other materials, the company says. The use of quantum computing to research the relationships between materials is expected to provide new information for vehicle construction and battery research. The third project area will focus on the development of new machine-learning processes, which is a key technology for developing advanced artificial intelligence (AI) systems. AI systems are a "prerequisite" for automated driving, VW notes. VW Group chief information officer Martin Hofmann said, "Quantum computing technology opens up new dimensions and represents the fast-track for future-oriented topics. We at Volkswagen want to be among the first to use quantum computing for corporate processes as soon as this technology is commercially available. Thanks to our cooperation with Google, we have taken a major step towards this goal."
Outlook and implications
The VW-Google collaboration is mostly about pure information technology and research projects, rather than vehicle-intent technology. However, the materials research element for next-generation EVs could end up having some long-term practical benefits, and it will be interesting to see if this also yields results in the area of vehicle design and construction. VW is choosing initial research projects that address real, practical challenges facing the company and the industry, albeit over the longer term. VW says that specialists from the VW IT centres in San Francisco (US) and Munich (Germany) will develop algorithms, simulations, and optimisations together with the Google experts, carrying out the work using Google universal quantum computers. Quantum computing is in its infancy, but has the potential to calculate relationships in a way that is not possible with traditional computers. Quantum computing has the potential to analyse certain relationships faster and better than today's supercomputers. According to IHS Markit automotive director of research Egil Juliussen, VW is getting into advanced computing to enhance its research and development (R&D). This positions VW at the forefront of computing technology. The information from these projects has the potential to find answers that current technology cannot accomplish, and the results will assist VW in its efforts to address mobility and self-driving technology. Although this initiative may not provide a specific technology or solution to be deployed in the short term, it will give VW and Google more experience of how this kind of advanced computing power can be utilised in vehicle R&D technology for the longer term. This can only be useful as the industry accelerates towards eventual fully autonomous driving and as part of that goal employs increasing AI, Car-to-X communication (communication between vehicles and traffic infrastructure), and car-to-car technology whereby vehicles will be fully networked with each other to provide real-time data on traffic flow, weather conditions, and any other parameter deemed relevant to help people travel in as safe and as efficient a manner as possible.
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