Inside Quantum Technology

Better Commuting Through Quantum Computing with Q-CTRL

(SpectrumIEEE) An Australian transportation agency is partnering with Q-CTRL to explore how quantum computing could someday allow commuters and tourists to enjoy the fastest possible travel through multiple transfers across transportation networks—a challenging computing task that could require near-instantaneous recalculations based on changing ground conditions and shifting schedules for buses, trains, ferries, and ride-hailing car services.
The startup’s project with Transport for New South Wales—the transport and roads agency in New South Wales, Australia—aims to squeeze the maximum computing performance from existing quantum hardware while preparing the agency for the day when quantum technology can handle challenging problems such as transportation network optimization on a large scale.
The company’s initial exploration of how quantum computing might assist in Australia’s transportation challenges includes proof-of-concept demonstrations. For example, the team’s recent work on vehicle routing and scheduling problems involved performance testing and validation with one qubit from IBM’s cloud quantum computing service and simulating quantum algorithm performance on larger quantum computing hardware.
The goal for this transportation-focused research goes beyond merely optimizing travel that involves transfers among multiple types of transportation. Q-CTRL is also aiming for quantum computing to help the Transport for New South Wales agency achieve “Mobility as a Service” that would allow travelers to seamlessly pay for and access multiple modes of transportation through a single app or website. Such an all-in-one travel portal could benefit greatly if quantum computing can enable real-time updates and reconfigured travel routes on the fly based on the latest ground conditions.
“Right now, most computations at relevant scale become intractable even for conventional computer models,” says Michael Biercuk, CEO of Q-CTRL and director of the Quantum Control Laboratory at the University of Sydney in Australia. “Our hope is to help usher in adoption of quantum computational approximations delivering quantum advantage so these network optimization problems can be solved on relevant timescales.”

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