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BMW launches quantum challenge for automotive sector

Car maker is encouraging researchers and startups to submit industry-specific algorithms that take advantage of quantum computing

BMW Group, in conjunction with Amazon Web Services (AWS), has launched a quantum computing challenge, encouraging researchers and startups to submit innovative quantum algorithms to tackle specific industrial challenges.

In the automotive sector, quantum computing offers car makers the opportunity to address complex optimisation, materials research and support autonomous driving. Speaking in June, Oliver Zipse, chairman of the board of management at BMW, said: “Quantum computing is one of the most promising future technologies and can revolutionise application fields from materials research to automated driving.”

Discussing the new initiative, Peter Lehnert, vice-president at BMW Group Research, new technologies, said: “The technological landscape in the field of quantum computing is only just starting to take shape. Different firms and research institutes are pursuing a variety of approaches. By launching our crowd innovation initiative, we are hoping to tap into additional innovative power that would be beyond the reach of a standard tendering process.”

BMW said it had identified 50 application areas where quantum computing could be applied for potential benefit in the future. It has decided to focus on four key areas: optimisation of sensors required for autonomous driving; simulation of material deformation during production; optimising pre-production configurations; and machine learning for automated quality assessments.

In June, BMW, along with BASF, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bosch, Infineon, Merck, Munich Re, SAP, Siemens and Volkswagen, formed the Quantum Technology and Application Consortium (QUTAC), whose members aim to develop what they describe as a “high quantity of use cases for industry” to create demand for quantum computing. According to BMW, QUTAC will speed up development of the technology in Germany and Europe.

AWS is supporting the BMW quantum challenge via its Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab and said it will provide credits for entrants to use Amazon Braket, a development environment for testing and building quantum algorithms.

Bill Vass, vice-president of engineering at AWS, said: “Enabling cutting-edge research in quantum computing and helping businesses prepare for the quantum future is why we launched Amazon Braket and built out our team of experts at the Amazon Quantum Solutions Lab. Quantum computing is in its early stages, but its long-term impact promises to be transformational for many industries.”

Registration for the challenge begins today, and the deadline for submissions is 24 September 2021, after which entrants will be examined and judged by a panel of experts. A final event will take place in December 2021, when the top entrants will have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges.

BMW said the winners will gain the BMW Group as a client and will also be involved in the implementation of their respective pilot projects.

Read more about quantum computing

  • Over the next few years, the tech industry has a roadmap to overcome the challenges facing quantum computing. This will pave the way to growth in mainstream quantum computing.
  • Some problems cannot be solved on binary computers. With a new set of tools, Microsoft hopes to entice developers to swap bits for QuBits.
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