High-Tech Problem Solvers

Microsoft, Ford team to use quantum-inspired technology to understand traffic congestion

Ford has teamed up with Microsoft to study traffic congestion.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Computers are everywhere. We wear them on our wrists, carry them in our pockets, and rely on them to function in a modern world. As computing evolves, automakers like Ford are using high-level technology to work to solve everyday problems.

The Dearborn, Michigan-based automaker has partnered with Microsoft to simulate the impact thousands of vehicles traveling has on congestion. They're early in to the project, still developing the quantum computing aspects of the project, which will take the problems of today and scale them to predict the problems of tomorrow. Then, the two companies will use the information to dive deeper into possible solutions to those problems.

"Quantum computing has the potential to transform the auto industry and the way we move," said Julie Love, senior director of quantum computing business development, Microsoft. "To do that we need to have a deep understanding of the problems that companies like Ford want to solve, which is why collaborations like these are so important."

When rush hour happens and congestion picks up, it's not uncommon for drivers to use various apps to change their route using traffic apps like Waze. However, these apps often route drivers the same way, creating congestion on side streets. Ideally, new computing would work to balance those routes to allow the least amount of congestion possible on all streets.

Dr. Ken Washington, Chief Technology Officer, Ford Motor Company described the problem and possible solution in a recent post on Medium.

Simply put, it's not feasible to have traditional computers find the optimal solution from a huge number of possible route assignments in a timely manner. That's where quantum computing can help. Essentially, existing digital computers translate information into either a 1 or a 0, otherwise known as a bit. But in a quantum computer, information can be processed by a quantum bit (or a qubit) that can simultaneously exist in two different states before it gets measured. Upon measurement, however, either a 1 or a 0 appears randomly and the probability for each is governed by a set of rules called quantum mechanics.

This ultimately enables a quantum computer to process information with a faster speed. Attempts to simulate some specific features of a quantum computer on non-quantum hardware have led to quantum-inspired technology — powerful algorithms that mimic certain quantum behaviors and run on specialized conventional hardware. That enables organizations to start realizing some benefits before fully-scaled quantum hardware becomes available.

The partnership between Microsoft and Ford started in 2018 to specifically focus on reducing traffic congestion in Seattle, a city undergoing tremendous rapid growth that is confined in its footprint by waterways and mountains.

The collaboration tested numerous scenarios in their efforts to solve Seattle's traffic congestion, with as many as 5,000 vehicles. Each vehicle in the scenario had 10 different route choices. In 20 seconds, computing software weighed each of those suggestions and delivered a route that resulted in a 73 percent improvement in total congestion compared to traditional route suggestion methods. The result was an eight percent drop in the time of the commute.

Ford remains hopeful that future advances in quantum computing will further the company's mission to work to reduce congestion.

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Ford's latest concept vehicle is designed to better-equip firefighters for the tough tasks ahead.

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Filson is a brand for go-everywhere lifestyle enthusiasts looking to be equipped for the long road ahead. The Ford Bronco is ready to take them there. A new partnership between the two iconic names in outdoors-ing has resulted in the Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept and limited-edition outdoor gear.

The Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept features a combination of firefighting equipment, rugged materials crafted by Filson, and the four-door Bronco. It is designed to be a tribute to the decades of first responders who used the Bronco for their firefighting duties.

"Ford and Filson share a unique history of helping protect our nation's wildfire crews for more than a century and helping them access rugged areas of forests," said Dave Rivers, Bronco marketing manager. "Today, we're combining those strengths to support those who protect our natural resources as well as helping preserve our nation's forests for future generations."

Ford Bronco + Filson Wildland Fire Rig concept

Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

The new concept car is based on the 2021 Ford Bronco four-door Badlands trim with available Sasquatch Package. Its exterior features a Forest Service Green paint job that is similar to the color used on the first-generation U.S. Forest Service Bronco. At its face is a modular steel Ford Performance bumper with a Warn Zeon 10s winch.

A heavy-duty custom roof rack with Rigid LED light bar is mounted to the Bronco's accessory points on the side mirror arms and rear J-plate. The rack holds a Pulaski, shovel, water tanks and axes, and is strong enough to double as a firefighter lookout. Additional specialized equipment on the rig includes a Kimtek Firelite Fire/Rescue Transport skid that comes with a Hannay Reels fire hose reel, Davey high-pressure water pump, 50-gallon water tank, Stihl chainsaw, two hard hats, a high lift jack, and Sure Seal drop torch attached to it.

Filson materials make the interior of the concept tougher. There's otter green canvas door bolsters, armrests, and seat trim surrounds. The seating surfaces have quilted black leather inspired by Filson's jacket lining, and Ann embossed Bronco logo.

Grab handles and the center console are painted in matching Filson otter green while a CB radio is mounted to the Bronco's versatile BYO device rack on the instrument panel.

Fireproof ripstop nylon similar to that on Filson backpacks and briefcases is used for the bimini-style top and rear cargo area divider. The top can be opened, rolled back and secured by Filson bridle leather straps.

Bronco Wild Fund Presents: Shared History, Shared Action | Ford www.youtube.com

There's a Cerakote ceramic coating on the wheels, custom fabricated roof rack and grille, and a unique inside for the center console and instrument panel trim, all of which are designed for longevity. The center of the steering wheel features the Bronco horse plated in Filson brass. An embroidered Filson logo is mounted to the interior top and a similar logo has bee napplied to the center console trim tag.

"The Filson and Bronco collaboration was a natural fit, given the deep histories both brands have with the U.S. Forest Service dating back to the midcentury, when crews relied on the Filson Cruiser jackets and first-generation Broncos to reach remote terrain and protect them in harsh conditions," said Doug Thielen, director of marketing at Filson. "Our resilient materials and innovative product designs are the perfect complement for the rugged Bronco SUV, and honor wildland firefighters who risk it all to protect our forests and natural resources."

Earlier this week, Ford announced its new Bronco Wild Fund initiative. The company is set to use a percentage of the sales money it brings in from Bronco sales to fund an endowment that will benefit numerous outdoors-focused initiatives. Ford and the Bronco Wild Fund will donate two Broncos outfitted with firefighting equipment to help wildland fire personnel protect communities and vital natural resources.

Additionally, Filson and Ford will sell limited-edition Bronco + Filson outdoor gear at Filson.com to benefit the Bronco Wild Fund.

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The sale of every Ford Bronco will benefit America's wilderness. Ford Motor Company is establishing the Bronco Wild Fund, a charitable effort aimed at supporting the enjoyment and preservation of America's wilderness through a variety of grants and initiatives.

The endowment of the Wild Fund will be funded by a portion of the proceeds from Bronco two-door, four-door, and Bronco Sport sales, as well as Ford licensed merchandise. Ford says that the goal is for the fund to raise up to $5 million annually.

2021 Ford Bronco four-door Many orders have already been placed for the 2021 Bronco. Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

As part of the announcement the company is taking first public steps today to showcase an aspect of what the fund was designed to do.

"The Bronco Wild Fund will help Bronco owners and off-road enthusiasts connect with the outdoors on a deeper, more personal level – ultimately enabling them to become responsible stewards of our nation's treasures," said Mark Grueber, Bronco brand marketing manager.

Strategic alliances will make the fund's efforts possible. The first two beneficiaries of the fund's support are the National Forest Foundation and Outward Bound USA. The National Forest Foundation, created by Congress in 1992, is the only nonprofit solely dedicated to protecting and promoting America's 193 million acres of national forests and grasslands. Ford has pledged to plant 1 million new trees by the end of 2021 in cooperation with the National Forest Foundation.

Founded in 1941, Outward Bound USA pioneered outdoor adventure learning around the world and now operates in more than 30 countries. The organization will receive funds to provide access for young people to learn and grow through outdoor experiences in some of our country's great wilderness spaces.

Outward Bound USA Outward Bound USA provides outdoor experiences for America's youth.Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company

Ford says that future preservation initiatives will include financial support for reforestation and trail maintenance programs, forest health, fire mitigation, and restoration work.

The 2021 Ford Bronco Sport is expected to arrive at dealerships soon. The Bronco two-door and four-door will following in 2021.

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