VW trialling quantum computers to optimise Lisbon’s traffic flow


The Volkswagen Group is launching the world’s first pilot project for traffic optimization using a next-generation quantum computer in the Portuguese capital of Lisbon, with the technology trialled on the city’s bus fleet. 

VW is equipping the city’s Man buses with a traffic management system that it developed in-house. The system uses a D-Wave quantum computer and calculates the fastest route for each of the nine participating buses individually and almost in real-time. This way, passengers travel times will be significantly reduced, even during peak traffic periods, and traffic flow will be improved. VW will be testing its new traffic optimization system during the international WebSummit technology conference that is taking place in Lisbon from November 48, when buses will be carrying thousands of passengers through the city traffic. 

Volkswagen’s traffic management system includes two components: passenger number prediction and route optimization using quantum computing. For predictions, VW’s development team is using data analytics tools to identify stops with especially high passenger numbers at certain times, using anonymized geo-coordinates and passenger flow data. The objective is to offer as many people as possible tailor-made transport options and to ensure optimum utilization of the bus fleet. For the pilot project, 26 stops were selected and connected to form four bus links connecting the conference facility to key locations in the city centre. The VW team intends to continue the development of the prediction component, with the aim that bus operators should add temporary links to their scheduled services to serve stops with the largest passenger numbers. 

VW experts have developed a quantum algorithm for route optimization between the stops. This algorithm calculates the fastest route for each individual bus in the fleet and optimizes it on an almost real-time basis. In contrast to conventional navigation services, the quantum algorithm assigns each bus an individual route. This way, each bus can drive around traffic bottlenecks along the route at an early stage and avoid traffic jams before they even arise. As the buses travel along individually optimized routes that are calculated to ensure that they can never cause congestion themselves, there will be a general improvement in traffic flow within the city. 

In the future, Volkswagen plans to develop its traffic optimization system to market maturity, and its developers have designed the system so that it can generally be applied to any city and to vehicle fleets of any size. Further pilot projects for cities in Germany and other European countries are already being considered, where the system could be offered to public transport companies, taxi companies or fleet operators. VW is cooperating with its technology partners D-Wave and Google, which provide access to their computer systems. In 2016, the team successfully demonstrated congestion-free route optimization for taxis in the Chinese capital Beijing. Since then, the development of the algorithm has been steadily continued and it has been protected by patents in the USA. 

Volkswagens use of quantum computing to tackle pervasive global problems like smart traffic management is an example of the real-world impact quantum applications will soon have on our cities, communities, and everyday lives,” noted D-Wave’s CEO, Vern Brownell. “Their pilot project is among the first that we know of to make production use of a quantum computer, and their ongoing innovation brings us closer than ever to realizing true, practical quantum computing. 

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Adam joined the company in 1994, and has been News Editor of TTT since 2009. In his other role as Circulation Manager, he helped create the original Traffic Technology International distribution list 23 years ago, and has been working on it ever since. Outside of work, he is a keen fisherman, runs a drumming band, and plays an ancient version of cricket.