It’s a bold new world for automakers. After a century of development and fine-tuning, the combustion engine is going the way of the dodos as Europe switches to clean energy.

But there’s more to the future of cars than just electric motors. The dawn of fully autonomous vehicles may be just beyond the technological horizon, and the promise of a million-mile battery is drawing ever closer. To find the way to these technologies, European car manufacturers are working together with quantum computer companies at an increasing pace.

The European car industry has a long, rich history of technological innovation. From the beginning with the Nesselsdorfer Wagenbau in 1898 to the masterpiece that the 2023 McLaren ArturaEurope’s place at the cutting edge of industry has never been questioned. With that in mind, let’s think about the future.

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The next steps for the industry are to take a quantum leap forward. Despite the fact that quantum computing and other quantum-based technologies are still in their infancy, there are countless ways they can help the automotive industry.

At the very front, the low-hanging fruit is autonomous driving. Despite the early hype, researchers and automakers have yet to crack the self-driving car nut. For every step that companies like BMW, Tesla and Waymo take, it seems like hundreds edge cases popup that the AI ​​can’t handle.

We are probably still a long way from building a quantum computer that would fit inside a car, where it would presumably act as its brain. But quantum acceleration – the ability for quantum processors to perform calculations and/or run algorithms that a classical system could not do in a useful amount of time – could provide advances in several fundamental areas for autonomous vehicle systems.

Scientists from Pasqal, a Paris-based quantum computing startup, recently entered into a partnership with Volkswagen to find new methods for using hybrid quantum neural networks to improve image recognition. This particular experiment demonstrated the potential for quantum technologies to dramatically improve the quality assurance process.

Essentially, the researchers used quantum-driven AI to increase the accuracy of the image-detection capabilities to improve the quality of the auto-manufacturing process. The techniques they are developing could easily spill over into other industries, but they could also be used to give self-driving cars better ‘eyes’ by increasing the speed and accuracy with which neural networks can process images.

Pasqal is also together with BMW in another quantum-based enterprise. Together with the German car manufacturer, the company hopes to find new, lighter and more durable materials to build cars from. The team hopes to eventually reach the point where the design process is fast, accurate and zero-prototyping to ensure a clean energy approach to every facet of the car manufacturing process.

BMW and Volkswagen are early adopters for the impending explosion of quantum computing hardware, but rest assured that every other major automaker has a plan to get involved too — experts predict the market for quantum technologies will reach nearly $500 billion by 2030. And the shift to autonomous vehicles (and away from ownership) requires an entirely different view of delivery and logistics, something the quantum industry is investing heavily in.

Ultimately, the future of the manufacturing industry in general, not just the automotive sector, is quantum. But it may take a while before things really start to move. The good news, however, is that our analysis shows that automakers can benefit as pioneering partners of Europe’s fast-growing quantum startup economy.

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