Porsche Digital’s Road Towards a Practical Quantum Advantage

Quantum computing sounds like Sci-Fi material, but it is actually becoming reality — a reality where we hope to unleash new potentials for building unseen products and services for our customers. Quantum technologies like quantum computation, quantum communication and quantum sensing are likely going to play a huge role in shaping the automotive future.
Alissa Wilms, Regina Kirschner and Mahdi Manesh explain why Porsche Digital is not only in the middle of digitalization and exciting changes in business but also part of the second quantum revolution.

Quantum technologies are likely going to play a huge role in shaping the automotive future.

We at Porsche Digital are always looking for new digital business models and technologically advanced solutions for Porsche vehicles and the customer ecosystem. While constantly exploring future technologies and with a background in deep tech, it seemed natural to investigate quantum technologies, especially quantum computing. We are convinced that a strong understanding of future and emerging technologies is key to continue building successful digital products and services. For us, this involves research about quantum information processing, especially on quantum algorithms.

But first: What are quantum technologies?

We divide quantum technologies into three categories: (i) quantum computing, (ii) quantum communication and (iii) quantum sensing, with our main focus being on quantum computing. Quantum computers differ from conventional computers in their use of qubits instead of bits, using the principles of quantum mechanics to perform computational tasks. These properties make quantum computers potentially more efficient in solving problems, such as searching large databases or working out complex issues. The most prominent example for such a speedup was proposed by Peter Shor (1996), who presented an algorithm for solving two well-known highly problems, that cannot be solved by classical computers in polynomial time. As a result, many experts believe that quantum computing will — in a hybrid setting with classical computers — lead to significant improvements to solving certain classes of complex computational problems.

In the automotive industry, for example, the quantum approach can help develop more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. In addition, the fusion of different quantum technologies can enable new advances in driverless and connected vehicle technologies that are important for safety and efficiency on our roads.

The advantages and challenges of quantum computing

While classic computers are very powerful for many tasks, there are limits to their capabilities that have been scientifically proven. It is hoped that Quantum computers are going to play a role in overcoming some of the associated boundaries such as integer factorization and discrete logarithms, but also certain very specific machine learning tasks, where theoretical quantum advantage can be shown. There are industry-related challenges, also at Porsche Digital, which belong to variants of these problem classes. The devil is in the details, when it comes to relating industry challenges to these known problem classes. Will it be possible for a theoretical quantum advantage to be robustly transferred to the real world? We hope so, but we also know there is a lot of work to be done until the world sees practical quantum advantages. We can nevertheless assume that quantum networks pave the way to a new era of communication, changing fundamentally how we and quantum machines can communicate with each other. By using principles like entanglement — which even Einstein called “spooky action at a distance” — we can add another, different layer of security to, for example, key distribution for encrypting our messages. This approach to realizing security is then not pure mathematical safety, but physical. Furthermore, it brings the exploitation of quantum computers to another level as they can then communicate via quantum channels — their “natural” environment.

Despite these potential advantages, there are several challenges that must first be overcome before quantum computing can become a standard technology adopted in practice. These obstacles include problems in ensuring the stability of the qubits and preventing them from being damaged by external influences such as heat or radiation. Even the slightest changes can disturb the computation process. On the other hand, this challenging sensitivity can be used for quantum sensors to register the slightest gradients in magnetic or electric fields, or to make things visible that are hidden to conventional sensors.

Our approach towards a practical quantum advantage

We do not strive for a theoretical quantum advantage. Rather our goal is to find industry challenges, identify use cases, and later build products based on practical quantum advantages. This is a vision deep into the future, but the pioneer work has already begun. The question remains: How can we perform valuable work now for a scenario that will need another 5 to 15 years?

We call it agile research and technology transfer. Using quantum computing as an example, this means we work on a beautiful theory full of “understandable” math. We map those insights to real problems like combinatorial optimization and sampling in machine learning. Areas of applications include finance, production, logistics, development and traffic optimization to name just a few. With our quantum knowledge, we map the quantum algorithm, idea or principle to the classical world, followed by investigations in the classical and quantum world. We do so by identifying and bounding use cases and areas of practical quantum benefit for Porsche Digital.

When the result of the sketched early investigation process seems promising, we either aim to formally prove the assumed benefits or use an existing quantum advantage proof and see if it can be fulfilled in a real-life scenario. If this is the case, we secure the future claim on this idea and build a proof-of-concept, simulating the hardware. Thus, we are dealing intensively on a theoretical level with the question, in which areas quantum computers can provide advantages now but also in the future.

Find more details here: Chancen und Risiken von Quantentechnologien: Praxis der zweiten Quantenrevolution für Entscheider.

Great minds get together

In addition, we build on strong collaborations, especially with universities, to leverage the theoretical insights rather sooner than later. Together with FU Berlin, we work on a joint BMBF (Federal Ministry of Education and Research) funded project called HYBRID. Here, we are investigating algorithms for solving problems that make use of the best of two worlds — classical and quantum. We do not focus on near-term solutions, but on a vision of a quantum hybrid world where real technical challenges of the automotive sector are solved with the support of a quantum computer within a classical (cloud) computing environment.

Our sketched approach seems like a recipe but it is, indeed, highly explorative. It means a lot of trial and error as well as complex research. Since quantum technologies are a very young discipline, a concrete instruction manual on how to use and integrate them does not exist. We at Porsche Digital see ourselves as part of this process and want to help shape the technological landscape of the future. That is why we have explained our experiences and methodology in more detail in a chapter for the book “Chancen und Risiken von Quantentechnologien: Praxis der zweiten Quantenrevolution für Entscheider” — to make the findings available for other companies.

We believe that quantum technology will act as an enabler to solve real problems and are excited for the way ahead — especially because we don’t know yet what we will encounter along the way. If you would like to exchange ideas or have concrete proposals for research collaborations, please contact us. We look forward to hearing from you!

About this publication: Where innovation meets tradition. There’s more to Porsche than sports cars — we are developing new digital products and services — always with our customers in focus. On our Medium blog, we tell these stories. It’s about our #nextvisions, emerging technologies, and the people that drive our digital journey. If you want to know more, follow us on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.



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