Quantum Computing: A Key to Autonomous Vehicle Industry Success
Mar 19, 2020
17 min readAdd to Favourite
Mar 19, 2020
17 min readAdd to Favourite
Quantum computing reads as a futuristic term; however, the amount of research and development that has already taken place in this field is ground-breaking and astonishing. One needs to acquaint with the term quantum theory before learning about its computing. Quantum theory can be understood as a theoretical basis for modern level physics, which deals with the action and nature of energy as well as matter at the smallest level, i.e., at atomic or even sub-atomic levels.
Quantum computing first materialized in 1981 when Richard Feynman talked about a computing technique that would solve problems by making use of Quantum physics rather than classical computing, which is used in computers today. A few other researchers at around the same time such as Paul Benioff and David Deutsch were also focused on quantum computing and its implications
Matter of hours or days as compared to years: With the background of Quantum Theory and the origins of quantum computing itself, it is now easier to understand the finer details of the same. Quantum computing can be understood as an application of quantum physical properties for processing information. Understanding the fact that complex problems will require powerful computing tools, it is easy to judge why researchers and tech giants are willing to invest efforts in Quantum computing.
Even though classic computers are developing at a rapid pace and doubling up their processing capacities every couple of years, it is still a long way before these computers can help in solving persistent computing problems. As computers in the present time are built on the basis of classic and limited models of computing, it is necessary to eventually focus on something like a Quantum computer to solve complex problems. Quantum computers will be able to provide solutions to problems in a matter of hours or days as compared to years taken to solve the same problem using a classic computer
Cooling needs: Quantum computers contain something known as a “Dilution Refrigerator,” which houses the data processing chip. These computers require extremely low temperatures for operation, and hence dilution refrigerators are used to develop the lowest temperatures on the planet. The refrigerator has different layers or stages in which the cooling takes place progressively downwards. The processing chip is situated at the lowest part of the refrigerator, where the temperature is the lowest, around 10 millikelvins.
Qubits: This particular chip in the computer contains something called qubits. Classic computers are able to manipulate or process bits, where data is stored in binary states of 0’s and 1’s. Quantum computers manipulate information by means of quantum mechanics, where the quantum bits or qubits come into play. These qubits made up of superconducting elements are capable of holding both values, i.e., 0 or 1, at the same time due to the superimposition state, which is completely different from the classic computer bit, which holds a singular value at a time. The advantage of holding both values at the same time is obtained by the qubits, which allows them to process multiple options at the same time. As these qubits require shallow temperatures for functioning, the dilution refrigerator is required here. Stable low temperatures are required as slight heat can induce errors in these qubits.
Quantum states and manipulation: There are various properties by which the state of qubits can be manipulated (e.g., Superimposition, Entanglement, and Interference). These properties can only be observed if the chip is in a stable and extremely cold environment
Multiple states at once: Superimposition is a combination of states in which ordinary conditions would have been different or independent. To understand this in a simpler way, one can think of a qubit which tends to represent various combinations of 0’s and 1’s at the same time. Now, this tendency of a qubit to represent multiple states at once is nothing but Superimposition. To manipulate these qubits into a state of superimposition, external triggering is provided by means of microwave beams or precise lasers.
It is now easier to understand why and how Quantum computers can process a lot of information in less time period. Even though these qubits are in the state of superimposition, they fall into a singular state of 0 or 1, the moment they are being measured.
Complex connection: Entanglement is another state that consists of a complex connection of elements. Entanglement is the state when a couple of qubits exist in the state of a tandem. Therefore if the state of a single qubit is changed, the state of the other qubit in tandem is changed too in a predictable fashion. The entanglement phenomenon is a mystery to researchers. Due to entanglement, extra qubits can double up processing prowess of the quantum computers, unlike the classic computers where bits need to be doubled to increase processing capacity.
Phase phenomenon: Quantum states can face interference due to the phase phenomenon. There can be two types of phases, mainly a constructive phase in which the amplitude of waves add up and destructive where the amplitude of signal waves cancel out.
Due to numerous claims and capabilities of quantum computing, this latest generation computing has gathered a vast audience across many fields, mainly because of the results that can be perceived. Complex fields such as chemistry, drug development in the health sector, supply chain & logistics, and aviation, along with newer fields like artificial intelligence, can massively benefit from quantum computing.
Aviation: Aviation giants like Airbus are tinkering with the concept of solving complicated problems in the aviation industry. They plan to reduce time taken for processing mathematical problems during the design phase of an aircraft. With quantum computers, reduced processing time up to 4 times was observed.
Drug Development: Quantum computing method is capable of understanding and providing detailed information about the molecules which are examined for the purpose of drug development. Due to the fact that more information regarding the molecule can be understood, it can accelerate the development of newer and more effective drugs.
Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence: AI and Machine Learning have achieved respectable heights with the help of classical computing, but with quantum computing, they can achieve something more. Quantum computing has a faster rate of processing, i.e., these computers can work through massive data sets, which will take an extensively longer time for classic computers to process. Complex decisions made by Artificial Intelligence can be even more finely-tuned if quantum computing is applied to it. Overall predictive capabilities can be boosted by the use of quantum computing, and hence tech companies are keen to bring it in this field.
Logistics and Supply Chain: For industries such as airlines where flight scheduling needs to be done, a manufacturing unit with numerous machines which need to be operated at the most optimum level or a vehicle manufacturer who needs to price various vehicle from their portfolio according to customer demand, tremendous efforts are put into place to get the complex calculations just right. Industries like transport and logistics need to reduce transit time and distance to optimize profits, which can encounter various issues such as bad weather conditions or vehicle breakdowns. Quantum computing can help such industries take crucial decisions with ease as high stake complicated calculations can be executed for results, which might be a little too far too much for classical computing.
Mobility Industry: Automotive giants across the globe are eyeing this latest form of computing to solve various problems, which might help in deciding the future of the automotive industry. The automotive industry can make use of Quantum computing in a variety of applications, right from manufacturing and synthesis of new materials to management of vehicle traffic and autonomous vehicles.
“Modern problems require modern solutions” is an exact and the most relatable statement when considering Quantum computing to be a solution to modern automotive problems. All the major automotive manufacturers are looking at vehicles that run on batteries rather than the traditional fossil fuels and bring automation in the process of steering and driving the vehicle itself. This drastic shift from fossil fuels and driver-centric vehicles to battery and drive less or autonomous vehicles is as complex as it sounds. Many autonomous vehicles have been manufactured and are being regularly tested across multiple parameters, only to fail in certain areas. The seamless autonomous driving experience is a tad bit away from being completely commercial and safe.
Even though the level at which these vehicles are developed is pretty high going ahead, it is going to be even more complex. This is where Quantum Computing steps in and helps automotive companies with complex calculations and estimations by which a reliable autonomous experience can be obtained.
Highlighted below are some of the progress made by automotive players in the field of Quantum computing.
Even though quantum computing is in its infancy, automotive companies like Volkswagen have already started taking small steps to incorporate it into real-life applications. In collaboration with tech giant Google and D-wave, a quantum computing company based out of Canada, VW plans to implement quantum computing to reduce traffic congestion. Traffic data is captured with help from smartphones and transmitters inside vehicles. This data is processed in a non-quantum algorithm to decide the traffic density in a given area as well as the number of customers requiring a carrier. This outcome can then be easily processed by a quantum algorithm to optimize the number of carriers available versus the number of customers requiring a carrier. Optimization can be done by directing cabs or a public transport service carrier appropriately towards the focus area.
This aspect of quantum computing can very well be applicable to autonomous vehicles of the near future where these vehicles can be guided to a particular area of focus or can be intimated to avoid that area all together particularly in heavy traffic situations.
Efforts from both these colossal entities began way back in 2017, where planning and strategies were focused on multiple channels. Traffic management, optimization of structure for higher performance batteries for EV’s and lastly, development of new machine learning processes are the key areas that will be the epicenter of the collaboration. A practical application has already been tested or is being planned to be used in megacities like Beijing and Barcelona.
German automotive mogul, Daimler, envisions solving computation issues which the company is facing internally as well as externally in its production facilities spread across the globe. All the computational difficulties, as well as future plans, will require something more, something else other than the classical computers, which is where Daimler formed a strategic partnership with Google. This partnership allows Daimler to make use of quantum computers from Google for finding modern solutions for problems regarding mobility, and near-future implications.
Daimler plans to use Quantum computing in multiple ways to provide solutions to problems catering to diverse applications. For Daimler possible applications of Quantum computing can be in understanding and developing new materials for production of battery cells, Autonomous vehicles and their provision as well as maneuverability in dense traffic conditions and megacities without stressing the support system, logistical planning for Daimlers Van segment where routes and strategies need to be formed considering multiple variables, maximizing production planning and artificial intelligence. Daimler aims to become a successful mobility provider in parallel to its image as a prominent vehicle manufacturer.
Google has a 72 qubits Bristlecone chip, which is among the highest number of qubits used in a Quantum computer, which can benefit Daimler in its interventions. Quantum computing and its research are being conducted by Daimler under its CASE strategy in order to move an inch towards the company’s goal to become a service provider and not just a vehicle manufacturer.
Ford is another car maker who is looking at Quantum computing as a probable solution to various complex problems. The company has hired expert team members and is ready to work on the topic with other expert personnel. Ford has teamed up with NASA due to which the company will be able to formulate some complex problems into useable context. Operations are carried out from NASA’s Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory situated at Ames Research Centre in Silicon Valley. Teaming up with NASA will provide Ford an opportunity to make use of NASA’s quantum annealer, which is shared amongst NASA, Google, and Universities Space Research Association.
The primary focus area will be to help fleet owners optimize the resources and energy utilization of a large number of vehicles. A criterion based on vehicle to route mapping is required to be designed where the vehicles in focus happen to be diesel delivery vehicles. Diesel engines consist of filters that need to be tracked for optimal vehicle performance as well as compliance with the environment. The filter element can be managed in the best way when the vehicle it belongs to has had proper driving cycles. When delivery vehicles have multiple stops to make for drop off or face a huge traffic situation, this driving cycle is disrupted. Ford feels that an optimal route for the vehicle to follow while making stops can be found and then be applied across a number of other vehicles.
Naturally, when multiple parameters are stacked across multiple vehicles, a complex matrix of possibilities like congestion, breakdowns, number of drop off and pick up times, locations, customer feedback, and experiences come into play. A classical computer might be useful in terms of a limited number of vehicles, as well as other parallel parameters. As these parameters multiply, classical computing lacks the necessary firepower to prove adequate hence Quantum computing can be utilized in such scenarios. Ford intends to encode these problems into qubits and solve those using quantum computers in lesser time as compared to classic computers. Apart from the fact that quantum computing can provide tremendous help in the logistical calculation, the company thinks that it can be applied in other fields like new material development for batteries as well as chemistry optimization.
Big car and tech companies are involved in research and development of Quantum computing either by partnerships or collaboration, as no single entity has the ability to do what is necessary, alone. Famous car brands like Volkswagen and Ford are at the forefront of the entire activity, but other brands are trying to catch up in this wide white space of Quantum computing.
Bosch is one such player who has invested in Zapata Computing, which spun out of Harvard in 2017. Zapata Computing holds expertise in developing algorithms, quantum software, and other tools required to obtain solutions. For Bosch, Quantum computing opens a hoard of different opportunities and multiple areas where it can be utilized. Bosch believes that involving Quantum computing into sensor technology and cryptography can have remarkable results.
Among other such players, Denso and Toyota Tsusho started their efforts in the field of quantum computing in 2017, where they proposed to assess traffic data regarding travel time, vehicle location for around 130000 commercial vehicles in Thailand. This joint effort from the two big brands used cloud-based quantum computers from Canadian D-Wave Systems Inc.
In spite of the technology being in its infant state, tech companies and automotive players have already formulated some plans to incorporate it in day to day situations for e.g., traffic data assessment, production and logistic distribution, and more. Quantum computing has recently attracted a lot of investment from various sources as multiple entities consider this to be the probable future for solving solid and complex problems. Autonomous vehicles are being tested rigorously every day, and as this is one aspect that can benefit the expanding data processing abilities of Quantum computers.
Every new system developed can be perfected by taking numerous steps and a countless number of iterations. Tremendous efforts have been made by numerous inventors in the field of quantum computing to bring it at a stage where it can be seen and be partially implemented by anyone who wants a solution to a complex problem.
High-speed calculations: Computing speed is the most important and highly appreciated advantage of Quantum computing. As quantum computing can process data faster than an average classical computer, a massive amount of data can be crunched. This ability to process a lot of data is imparted to it by Quantum bits and the states at which they function. Due to increased processing speed and capabilities, the time required to crunch the data is reduced so much so that the quantum computer can process a large amount of data in minutes, which might take hours to do on a classic computer. Despite the utility quantum computing can provide, there are lots of drawbacks that can hardly be overlooked.
Maintaining low temperature: Quantum computers have a chip that needs to be maintained at a certain low temperature; to achieve this low temperature, a fancy infrastructure needs to be built around it. Not only does this mean a lot of complex equipment working parallel, but it gives an opportunity for error.
Susceptibility to errors: Quantum computers can be very susceptible to environmental conditions. A slight change in the condition can induce errors, which is a highly undesirable effect.
Special algorithm: As compared to classical computers, quantum computers need specialized algorithms that need to be developed to use computers even more efficiently.
The development and sustenance of qubits is another area where the quantum computing field is lacking.
Security: Apart from these pros and cons, a few experts have expressed their concern over the subject of cybersecurity. A vehicle that houses connected technologies makes use of cryptography for securing data and communications. Such cryptography may be easily broken by a quantum computer. This security threat means fraudulent software may breach the car’s computer, and hackers may be able to take charge of the car’s connected systems. A hacked self-driving vehicle without proper security measures is dangerous and cannot exist. This means an effort towards securing such connected and quantum driven systems needs to be on the forefront right from the initial stage.
Looking back at the entire timeline, right from the inception till its production and partial implementation, quantum computing has made steady progress. All the top tech and manufacturing companies are willing to invest in this futuristic concept and are extensively trying to develop means to implement it in their field of application. IBM unveiled its commercial quantum computer this year and planned to let others use it for calculations via the internet. Leaving behind the risks and drawbacks of this field of computing, a race to achieve quantum supremacy has already begun among top companies.
The automotive industry has made it in the news for being one of the few core industries to implement quantum computing to solve real-life problems relating to traffic management or autonomous vehicles. Apart from the logistics and production line relating problems, quantum computing will be most helpful to bring autonomous vehicles from testing and prototyping phase to the commercial phase.
Autonomous vehicles require tremendous computing prowess obviously for processing and wireless communication; this is where quantum computing would step in and help. Optimized route planning for autonomous vehicles can be one area of interest; for e.g., in a big country with vast roadways spread across many miles, tremendous data processing will be required and hence the need to go quantum. Quantum computing will not only help in the growth of autonomous vehicles but also revolutionize the entire mobility sector, where cars will be smart enough to communicate with themselves, thereby eliminating the need for traffic signals and facilitating package deliveries without much hassle.
Quantum computers and their computing field is growing and has limited outreach. As and when these difficulties related to hardware or software are solved, and players find newer ways to utilize these newfound powerful computers, gradually more developments are expected not only in the field of autonomous vehicles and mobility industry but also across all the other industries.
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