VW Claims It Has Cracked Smart City Traffic Prediction

Volkswagen IT scientists claim to have built a traffic management system for the smart city able to forecast and calculate urban traffic volumes, transport demand and travel times.

The scheme could see city public transportation organizations, taxi companies, and transport service providers being able to maximize efficiency and cut passenger waiting times. Volkswagen and quantum computing company D-Wave are presenting the project at this week’s WebSummit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

Quantum computer technology claims to be able to solve complex tasks such as traffic optimization much faster than conventional supercomputers and Volkswagen sees potential in using this quantum to build applications and business models.

The traffic management system was developed by analyzing anonymized movement data from smartphones or transmitters in vehicles with conventional computers calculating traffic accumulation and the number of people involved. Then a quantum algorithm was applied to the data and the results can be used to predict transportation demands through the city.

In essence, the system should eliminate transportation inefficiencies such as taxis and buses driving considerable distances without passengers, long passenger wait times or a shortage of vehicles in high demand locations. It’s possible Volkswagen may offer this as a commercial service and also expects application possibilities for the algorithm in traffic infrastructure and vehicle networking, especially relevant to autonomous vehicles.

Volkswagen wants to test the algorithm initially in Barcelona because it has a large enough database for this Spanish city. It is also cooperating with the telecommunications service provider Orange and the data science specialist Teralytics.

Florian Neukart, principal scientist at Volkswagen’s CODE Lab in San Francisco, said: “Volkswagen is forging ahead with practically-oriented research on quantum computers and is gaining essential specialist knowledge. We want to gain an in-depth understanding of applications of this technology which could be beneficial to the company, including traffic optimization. Public transport organizations and taxi companies in large cities are highly interested in managing their fleets efficiently. Our quantum-optimized traffic management system could help make that a reality.”

— Paul Myles is a seasoned automotive journalist based in London. Follow him on Twitter @Paulmyles_

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