Promises and challenges quantum computing brings to automotive
Like virtually every other area of life, car design and operation appears poised to be transformed by quantum computing. Indeed, the automotive industry has emerged as one of the emerging technology’s early adopters, with BMW, Ford, Mercedes-Benz, Hyundai, Toyota and Volkswagen being among the world’s automakers to have indicated their aspirations for quantum computing.
The possible applications of quantum computing’s revolutionary capabilities to quickly process information and solve complex problems far more quickly are powerful and varied in the automotive industry. A McKinsey & Company report estimates the economic impact of quantum computing in automotive to reach $2 billion to $3 billion by 2030: “Currently, one-tenth of all potential QC use cases under exploration could benefit the automotive industry. In fact, automotive will be one of the primary value pools for QC, with a high impact noticeable by about 2025.”
In what ways might the technology reshape the global automotive value chain, and what are the challenges to be overcome to realize that promise?
Potential Across Varied Applications
The global automotive industry already is exploring multiple quantum computing applications—quantum simulation, complex optimization problems, quantum AI and quantum machine learning, among them. Automotive designers see in quantum computing the tremendous potential to more effectively and rapidly address the challenges introduced by their industry’s move toward increasingly complex connected cars with more sensors, processors and communications systems.
Autonomous operation is one key area of innovation. Quantum computing’s high-speed and complex calculation capabilities, for example, can fuel the dependable and complex precise sensing and decision-making that the industry’s most advanced automated driving systems (ADS) will require for safe and efficient transportation. Whole new business models and services are likely to develop as the world increasingly adopts self-driving technologies leveraging quantum.
Quantum computing also could enable new materials to be created with customized properties in terms of greater strength and electrical connectivity, resulting in streamlined production processes and the creation of vehicle components that are lighter and more durable.
Real-time calculations enabled by quantum computing also could help raffic engineers more accurately predict traffic patterns and congestion. Travel times and carbon emissions could be reduced; road safety, improved.
With the potential of quantum computing for the automotive industry coming into sharper focus, more original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are investing in or partnering with companies in the technology space to explore diverse possibilities, such as:
- optimizing traffic flow and calculating real-time data for electric charging stations;
- improving chemistry and modeling materials for next-generation electric vehicle (EV) batteries;
- developing new machine learning algorithms;
- simulating aerodynamic shapes to improve fuel efficiency and driving comfort, and
- fine-tuning manufacturing processes.
Anticipating Tomorrow’s Emerging Risks
Along with the far-ranging opportunities presented by such a powerful technology come new challenges, too, of course. The automotive industry is especially cognizant of new cybersecurity risks that quantum computing could bring to its world.
ADS, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), in-vehicle infotainment (IVI) and other connected-car systems require robust cybersecurity to ensure the security and privacy of sensitive data and protect automobile operators. The automotive industry today depends heavily on cryptographic methods such as encryption, decryption and hashing to prevent data breaches and cyberattacks.
But because quantum computing will make breaking today’s cryptographic algorithms so much quicker, deployment of the technology in the automotive industry will render essential the implementation of post-quantum cryptography (PQC). The U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) in July 2022 announced four quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms for general encryption and digital signatures, and a full PQC standard is scheduled to be finalized in about two years. The automotive industry must move even faster, given the long lifecycle of vehicles in operation. Large-scale recall and replacement of algorithms across all makes and models two years from now is impractical.
Equipping vehicles today to utilize secure over-the-air (OTA) is one viable way that OEMs can position themselves to mitigate tomorrow’s risks associated with outdated encryption algorithms. Secure OTA would enable automobiles to leverage forthcoming, more secure encryption methods and update to PQC standards and capabilities when they are ready.
A Practical Approach Forward
It is clear from the public announcements of interest and investments from leading OEMs that the global automotive industry is convinced of quantum computing’s revolutionary potential across its entire value chain. To continue to innovate while anticipating new risks in areas such as cybersecurity, the industry must also look at practical solutions such as secure OTA for moving forward in the rapidly evolving arena.
Ziv Chang, Vice President, Automotive CyberThreat Research Lab, VicOne