Ford and Microsoft pilot quantum-inspired routing to reduce congestion

Posted: 16 December 2019 |

Using the faster processing speeds of quantum technology, Ford and Microsoft scientists have simulated a reduction in congestion by allowing quicker and more even distribution of routing systems provided in vehicles.

Ford and Microsoft pilot quantum-inspired routing to reduce congestion

Through a joint research pilot, Ford and Microsoft scientists have simulated thousands of vehicles and their impact on congestion by using powerful quantum-inspired technology, in an attempt to find a solution to increasing congestion through more balanced routing.

During rush hour driving, numerous drivers are said to request the shortest possible routes at the same time, but current navigation services reportedly handle these requests in a vacuum and do not take into consideration the number of similar incoming requests, including areas where other drivers are all planning to share the same route segments.

Instead of this type of individualised routing, the research pilot aims to develop a more balanced routing system – one that could consider all the various route requests from drivers and optimise route suggestions so that the number of vehicles sharing the same roads is minimised.

In a quantum computer, information can be processed by a quantum bit (or a qubit) that can simultaneously exist in two different states before it gets measured, Dr. Ken Washington, Chief Technology Officer, Ford Motor Company, wrote in a Medium post.

This is said to ultimately enable a quantum computer to process information at a faster speed. With the ability to process vast amounts of data, Dr. Washington described how easy it is to imagine how quantum computing has the potential to deliver balanced routing to drivers, which could lead to smoother flows of traffic, more efficient commutes and reduced pollution.

Ford and Microsoft tested several different possibilities, including a scenario involving as many as 5,000 vehicles – each with 10 different route choices available to them – simultaneously requesting routes across Metro Seattle.

In 20 seconds, balanced routing suggestions were allegedly delivered to the vehicles that resulted in a 73 per cent improvement in total congestion when compared to ‘selfish’ routing. The average commuting time was also reduced by 8 per cent – an annual reduction of more than 55,000 hours saved in congestion across this simulated fleet.

“While we’re still in the early stages of quantum computing development, encouraging progress has been made that can help us take what we’ve learned in the field and start to apply it to problems we want to solve today, while scaling to more complex problems tomorrow,” Dr. Washington wrote. 

Julie Love, Senior Director at Microsoft, said: “Quantum computing has the potential to transform the auto industry and the way we move. To do that we need to have a deep understanding of the problems that companies like Ford want to solve, which is why collaborations like these are so important.”