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Inside Quantum Technology’s Inside Scoop: Quantum and the Automotive Industry

quantum computing may significantly help the automotive industry from self-driving to electric vehicles.
By Kenna Hughes-Castleberry posted 25 Nov 2022

“The automotive world is about to be disrupted by a relatively new set of technologies: quantum,” explains Brian Lenahan, head of the Quantum Strategy Institute in a recent newsletter. Already the automotive industry is pushing ahead with quantum technology through partnerships. These partnerships include D-Wave Systems and Volkswagen; Zapata Computing and Bosch; and even IBM Quantum and Mercedes-Benz. With quantum technology like atomic clocks or masers being utilized in our everyday devices such as batteries or GPS, there is only more to come for disrupting and transforming the automotive industry.

The automotive industry can provide many lucrative opportunities for quantum computing. A recent article from McKinsey & Company estimates that the economic impact of technologies within this industry will be between $2 billion and $3 billion by 2030. These technologies include solving optimization problems, new materials for electric vehicles and more efficient vehicles, and current vehicle mechanics. In a recent partnership with Rolls-Royce, world-leading quantum computing company Classiq Technologies is leveraging quantum technology to address these many applications. “There are many things that we don’t put as use cases for quantum, explained Amir Naveh, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer at Classiq. “When you really dive into it, it’s almost every hard computational problem in the end maps into an optimization problem or a linear equation solver or something that can be solved with quantum.”

One of these problems is computational fluid dynamics, which the automotive and aerospace industries spend roughly $35 billion annually to test and develop. Using quantum simulations, engineers can optimize this system based on the simulation. Classiq’s partnership with Rolls-Royce specifically works to optimize fluid and gas systems to make jet engines more aerodynamic and fuel efficient. According to Rolls-Royce Fellow and Quantum Computing Lead Leigh Lapworth: “The potential of quantum computers to drastically reduce simulation run-times cannot be ignored, and the work we’re doing today ensures we will have the capabilities to benefit from Quantum Advantage when it arrives.”

Quantum and Self-Driving Cars

Autonomous vehicles are predicted to be the next generation of vehicles, as they allow drivers to do other things on their daily commutes and longer road trips. For autonomous vehicles to be safe and work successfully, they must be able to process large amounts of data almost instantaneously, from changing traffic to car accidents to construction. “Once they hit the mainstream market, autonomous cars are expected to generate up to 5 TB/hour of data, making it extremely complex even for current supercomputer level machines to simulate and optimize vehicle routing, data processing, and machine learning that goes with autonomous systems,” explained a 2022 article. This large, constantly changing influx of data can constrain current autonomous vehicles’ actions, making them less safe for passengers. Quantum computing can provide a solution to this problem by quickly analyzing data and providing different optimization or configuration algorithms.

Quantum and Electric Vehicles

With rising gas prices, many car companies are beginning to develop electric vehicles (EVs). But the process to create these EVs is far from easy, mainly due to the vehicle’s batteries. Most batteries within EVs are based on lithium-ion technology, which is very costly. “High purchase prices will deter broader adoption and delay hoped-for reductions in carbon footprints,” a 2022 Forbes article elaborated. The cost of the resources used in lithium-ion batteries also comes in part due to trade issues between countries like the U.S. and China, making it difficult for car companies to get the parts they need. To solve this problem, many quantum companies are using quantum to help find new potential batteries for electrical vehicles. “Currently, our main hypothesis is that quantum computing is well suited as a technology that can impact the development of next-generation batteries for electric vehicles,” explained Xanadu‘s Head of Algorithms Juan Miguel Arrazola. “Better batteries with longer range, faster charging, safer operation, lower cost, and sustainable development could significantly increase the adoption of electric vehicles, which would be transformative to the automotive industry. There are many promising approaches being studied as potential ways to build better batteries, but they all face challenges that need to be resolved before they are ready to be commercially viable. Fundamentally, these challenges relate to quantum properties of the molecules and materials that constitute a battery cell, which are very difficult to model accurately using popular methods like density functional theory. We are studying how quantum computers can be used to perform more accurate simulations, which could enable the breakthroughs needed to solve the technical and scientific challenges currently preventing the viability of new battery technologies for electric vehicles.”  With new materials and even quantum batteries, EV development can be accelerated, allowing more individuals access to electric cars, which in turn helps reduce more of the population’s carbon footprint.

The Automotive Industry and Cybersecurity

With EVs and autonomous vehicles carjacking will no doubt transform in tandem with the automotive industry. Because of these future vulnerabilities, many quantum companies are looking for ways to make the next generation of cars more digitally secure. “Automotive will need to deal with the cybersecurity issues that are coming out of Shor’s algorithm,” Naveh added, “If you’re designing cars for 10 years from now, and you’re designing the communication protocols, that is something you need to take into account.” No one wants to imagine themselves locked out of their car, or worse, their car goes somewhere without the owner’s permission. Working on developing quantum-secure algorithms is not only beneficial to create more digitally safe cars, but also benefits other industries like cybersecurity, finance, and even government.

Kenna Hughes-Castleberry is a staff writer at Inside Quantum Technology and the Science Communicator at JILA (a partnership between the University of Colorado Boulder and NIST). Her writing beats include deep tech, the metaverse, and quantum technology.

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