High-Tech Problem Solvers

Volkswagen becomes first to use real-time quantum computing to solve congestion

Volkswagen has successfully demonstrated the first rear-time use of quantum computing to solve a traffic jam.

Photo courtesy of Volkswagen AG

Ford is using quantum computing to simulate traffic jam scenarios in an effort to ease congestion in Seattle, a city experiencing rapid population growth that is confined in its boundaries on two sides by large bodies of water. Volkswagen has successfully demonstrated the use of live quantum computing to help optimize traffic routing.

During the Web Summit conference in Lisbon, Portugal nine public transit buses used a traffic management system developed by Volkswagen scientists, powered by a D-Wave quantum computer, to calculate the fastest travel routes individually and in near-real time.

"People who drive from the fair back to their hotels or into the city and use our Quantum shuttles, reach their destination faster," said Abdallah Shanti, Global CIO Volkswagen Brand and CIO Region Americas. "We can significantly reduce travel time. Traffic in major cities is highly complex due to a large number of road users," explains Shanti. The computing power that would be needed to optimize the flow of traffic is exorbitant. "That's why we've tried to solve this problem with D-Wave's quantum computers."

This advances a narrative that is twenty years in the making. The power of using quantum computing has been known for decades but the real-life integration of the technology has been reliant on the development of new technologies that can properly take on the challenge. Volkswagen's computing system relies on the D-Wave quantum annealer, a different kind of machine than what is used by other companies, including Google.

According to Volkswagen, "Quantum annealers can only solve very specific distribution problems, and researchers at VW Data Labs in San Francisco and Munich believe traffic optimization can be one of them."

Volkswagen sees this recent demonstration as a solid first step toward the technology's full integration into the market. The system has been designed so that it can applied to any city and to any vehicle, making it scalable depending on the needs of the environment and conditions. However, this may not come to your personal vehicle any time soon. The company says that it is focusing on using the tech in fleet cars, taxis, and public transportation.

VW is already scouting locations for pilot programs.

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VW purchased the rights to the iconic Scout name and plans to make new EVs under the brand.

Volkswagen

Automakers bring back names and brands from the past all the time, but it's not every day that a major company purchases a brand name specifically for the purpose of reviving it. That's exactly what Volkswagen just did with Scout, the name of an ultra-popular off-road SUV that was built by International Harvester in the 1960s and 1970s.

As for the types of vehicles we'll see from the brand, we currently only have the renders to go on. The pickup truck and SUV both feature throwback styling that is reminiscent of the original Scout shapes. Beefy off-road tires and lifted suspension are the only other clues available in the drawings.

Volkswagen has its own EVs, and its other brands like Audi and Porsche have made significant progress with electric vehicles as well. That said, VW doesn't really have a solid off-road option from any of its brands at the moment, so the Scout purchase opens doors for the automaker in that arena.

The announcement sounds exciting, but we've still got plenty of time to wait before there's a Scout-branded EV on the roads. Volkswagen said the plan is to release vehicles by 2026, but it won't be sitting idle between now and then. The VW ID.4 is still very fresh and the automaker says it will launch a total of 25 new EVs in the U.S. by 2030.

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The IIHS may increase the speeds it uses to test advanced driver aids.

Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently announced that it is considering changing the speeds it uses to test vehicle-to-vehicle front crash prevention systems. The agency currently tests the systems at 12 and 25 mph, but says that the speeds don't accurately represent the types of crashes the safety tech is meant to prevent.

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Automatic emergency braking (AEB) is designed to notify of a possible collision and help respond with automatic application of braking. Just like a human using the brake pedal, it can stop the car, but higher speeds make it difficult to stop in time. The new tests would be conducted at 35 to 45 mph, which is the range where a large number of rear-end crashes occur. As Automotive News noted, an IIHS study showed 43 percent of rear-end crashes occur at speeds of 45 mph or less, so it's important to have a test that shows how well the tech performs at those levels.

A whopping 85 percent of 2022 vehicles earned a "Superior" rating in the current testing regime, so the IIHS will remove it from 2023 testing and Top Safety Pick award evaluations. Their view is that, since the majority of vehicles meet the criteria, it's no longer an accurate way of evaluating performance. In its place, the agency introduced a night test for automatic emergency braking systems that will begin next year.

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