Quantum Computing: The future of Auto

Quantum computing (QC) could potentially add billions of dollars to the automotive industry. Thanks to the recent quantum computing device that can operate at 1.5 Kelvin, the automotive sector have been exploring the computing device’s potential.

Although quantum computing applications are still about five to ten years down the road, the automotive industry has been exploring its effectiveness in the manufacturing and synthesis of new materials as well as the management of autonomous vehicles. The technology is said to have the potential to solve complex optimization problems that include processing vast amounts of data to accelerate learning in autonomous vehicles navigation algorithms.

Additionally, original equipment manufacturers and tier-one suppliers have been actively exploring the technology and its abilities to find solutions to existing issues related to route optimization, fuel-cell optimization, and material durability.

Automotive manufacturers such as Volkswagen and BMW have already announced their intentions to pursue quantum computing research. Their area of research includes quantum simulation for material sciences, as they aim to improve the efficiency, safety, and durability of batteries and fuel cells.

Volkswagen partnered with D-Wave in 2019, a quantum computing company based in Canada, to implement quantum computing to reduce traffic congestion to improve the travel routes of nine public transit buses during the 2019 Web Summit in Lisbon, Portugal.

Likewise, a German tier-one supplier, Bosch, has acquired a stake in Zapata Computing and contributed $21 million Series A investment in the Cambridge, Massachusetts-based quantum start-up.

With quantum computing services estimated to be worth 32 to 52 billion dollars in the automotive industry by the year 2035, the automotive sector, as well as automotive stakeholders are currently working on establishing a lucid QC strategy.

The primary potentials of QC include accelerated research in electric vehicles, improvement in vehicle routing and route optimization, material, and process research, and improving the security of connected driving. Furthermore, it can be used by automakers to improve fuel efficiency during vehicle design and it can also help to reduce drag.

The technology can potentially reduce computing times from a few weeks to just a few seconds, thus ensuring car to car communication in real-time. In areas such as vehicle crash behavior and cabin soundproofing, QC can apply advanced simulations and apply algorithms used in the development of autonomous driving software.

QC is a growing field that assists automotive companies with logistics and production-related problems, as well as the advancement of autonomous vehicles that require tremendous computing prowess for processing and wireless communication. The technology can possibly bring autonomous vehicles from the testing and prototyping stage to the highly anticipated commercial phase.

Just as the Auto Industry Revives Itself, Worker Shortages Impedes the Process

In today’s current climate, companies and employees alike have seen how the Coronavirus continues to affect the economy. This includes the auto industry; an industry that started to recover only to face the roadblock of worker shortage.

When the coronavirus pandemic began back in January, many companies were forced to stop production or implement very rigid protocols. For the auto industry or specifically auto plants, it meant the entire stop of vehicle production. Despite the altogether halt in production, consumers never stopped in their demand for cars and caused an insufficiency in inventory. Consequently, auto plants now have to play a game of catch-up.

So far there has been success in steadily restocking inventory. According to Wards Intelligence, an automotive research and analytics firm, vehicle production in North America has returned nearly to pre-virus levels. With such progress, it begs the question: Why are production levels not matching or exceeding pre-virus levels? The answer: worker shortage.

Auto plants are facing a staffing issue largely due to absenteeism or any reason an employee cannot go to work. The grounds for absenteeism cover a wide range, from reasons like not having childcare to being mandatorily quarantined after positively testing for the Coronavirus.

Furthermore, auto plants find it hard to convince people to join with such a large group of employees-approximately 2,000 people- in one enclosed space and when it lacks high-paying wages.

To combat issues of absenteeism and Coronavirus fears, auto plants have gone beyond hiring more team members and internally moved some of their ‘white-collar’ workers to the production line. This means these office-dwelling employees find themselves in the production line helping in the assembly of vehicles. Desperate times call for desperate measures as companies like Toyota, Honda and General Motors have all employed this tactic.

While it is unusual, it isn’t the first time auto plants have implemented this tactic. Emily Lauder, the vice president of administration at Toyota Mississippi, reflects on when she herself had to go from accounting and help build transmissions twenty years ago.

The automotive industry has had its’ fair share of challenges over the years. From emission woes to the demand to convert to electric powered vehicles, the Coronavirus is the newest challenge on the docket. Although there has been immense improvement, worker shortage has proven to slow-down progress. Hopefully, with the current methods being applied, the auto industry will be once again thriving in the economy.

Uber Says Their Vehicles Will be 100% Electric by 2040

Uber recently announced that every vehicle on its global ride-hailing platform will be electric by 2040. The company will contribute $800 million through 20205 to help drivers switch to battery-powered vehicles, including discounts for vehicles bought or leased from partner automakers. Uber, which has over 5 million drivers worldwide, said it formed partnerships with General Motors and the Renault, Nissan, Mitsubishi alliance.

In a separate announcement, GM said the eligible Uber drivers in North America can purchase a 2020 Chevy Bolt and receive a GM employee discount.  The discount can be combined with the $8.500 national rebate that’s currently being offered. Bolt U.S. drivers will also be eligible for a discount of 20 percent below sticker price on accessories, including at-home charging equipment.

GM and Uber plan to launch a pilot program in Los Angeles and Denver to offer special financing agreements through GM financial.

“Through this program we’re offering new ways for drivers and customers across the country to fall in love with driving electric,” Steve Majoros, vice president of Chevrolet marketing, said in a statement. “This is a key opportunity to grow Chevrolet’s EV business through a program that matches our expertise and strength with a rideshare platform that brings its own scale and reach.”

Uber says the $800 million program includes discounts for charging and a fare surcharge for electric and hybrid vehicles, which would be offset by an additional small fee charged to customers who request a “green trip.” Uber also says that vehicles on its platform will be zero-emission by 2030. The deals with GM and the Renault alliance focus on the U.S., Canada and Europe. Uber said it was discussing partnerships with other automakers.

Uber has faced much criticism in the past by environmental groups and city officials over pollution. Lyft Inc., Uber’s smaller U.S. rival, in June promised to switch to 100 percent EVs by 2030, but said it would not provide direct financial support to drivers.

Before the pandemic, electric cars made up for only 0.15 percent of North American Uber trip miles. Ride-hail trips overall account for less than 0.6 percent of transportation-sector emissions, according to U.S. data, but the total number of on-demand vehicles has significantly increased since Uber’s launch nearly a decade ago, with 7 billion trips last year, according to Uber’s February investor presentation.

Beginning on Tuesday, all U.S. and Canadian Uber drivers in a fully battery-powered electric vehicle will receive $1 extra per trip, and an additional 50 cents in major U.S. cities if passengers choose to pay extra when booking a “green trip.”

Tesla Looks to Gain EV Lead in Energy Market

Elon Musk has found a new mission in the automotive market: providing power for EVs. Tesla recently acquired a license that will enable them to trade electricity across western Europe, and the company has also been surveying customers in Germany about using Tesla electricity in their cars. Automotive experts and consultants say this could be the beginning of many new partnerships. Germany is currently Europe’s biggest power market and home to many automotive brands.

Generating trading power would help Tesla lower the running costs of its cars at a time where rival automotive brands are producing new electric vehicles themselves. Tesla already sells solar panels to Powerwall battery storage for homes but not appears to be looking at selling electricity directly to customers using the home storage systems to provide services to the grid.

In June, the company became a member of the EPEX spot power exchange, a platform used to trade much of Europe’s cross-border electricity. A month later, it surveyed German customers about their interest in energy services. “What would encourage you to switch from your existing energy supplier?,” the survey said, according to a copy seen by Reuters.

“Would you buy a Tesla photovoltaic system and home storage (Tesla Powerwall) if you could switch to a specially designed Tesla electricity tariff?,” it said.

Tesla also asked potential energy customers whether they would allow the company to control when cars would charge.

This could allow it to coincide charging with cheap electricity rates during off peak hours, consultants and industry executives said.

Companies offering similar services in Germany include sonnen, Next Kraftwerke, and Lichtblick.

“The next and obvious step for Tesla is to get into production, especially of renewable power,” said consultant Berthold Hannes, who has 30 years of energy advisory experience.

“Tesla could use its own locations, for example the roofs of plants or the sites of charging points, and alternatively, or in addition, it could take stakes in solar plants or wind parks,” he said.