Hyundai, Ford expand partnerships with quantum computing firms

The future of autonomous and electric vehicles holds great promise for many technology companies, from sensor firms to chip designers to AI and software developers. But don’t leave out quantum computing firms either. They increasingly are looking to the automotive sector as a field for near-term market opportunities where quantum computing and hybrid classical-quantum simulations can deliver value.

Hyundai Motor Company and IonQ, a firm developing its own quantum computers and that counts both Hyundai and Kia as investors, have been working together for about a year. They initially focused on a project that used quantum computing resources to help simulate the chemical reaction that occur in electric vehicle batteries with a goal of optimizing these batteries for longer like, higher quality and lower cost. 

The pair have expanded their partnership throughout 2022, with the most recent expansion of the collaboration coming earlier this month, as IonQ has made available new, more powerful quantum computer models, first its 23-qubit Aria machine and now its 32-qubit Forte. In addition to the EV battery focus, Hyundai and IonQ are now running projects focused on object detection for autonomous driving and the development of machine learning algorithms.

Another of the several quantum firms focusing on automotive opportunities is Quantinuum, the company that Honeywell formed and took a majority stake in when it merged its own fledgling quantum computing business with U.K.-based Cambridge Quantum Computing in 2021. Quantinuum this year has been working with Ford, and the two companies this month published a paper about their research, which similar to the project Hyundai and IonQ have worked on, focuses on chemical modeling with EV batteries in mind.

The research team that co-authored the paper included Marwa H. Farag, a quantum computer scientist, theoretical chemist and computational modeling expert at Ford. The existence of such a role at the automaker itself shows how seriously automotive firms are looking at quantum computing. 

Jenni Strabley, Ph.D., Senior Director of Offering Management for Quantinuum, said the highly complex chemical make-ups of EV batteries offer an opportunity where quantum computing can make a difference–not just in automotive but across multiple markets.

“I would generally characterize the market activities as an interest across automotive and other verticals whose core business involves EV battery technologies to investigate new solutions for modeling the complex chemistry inside batteries,” she said, adding, “Breakthroughs in investigating the suitability of quantum computers for modeling complex battery chemistry will be very attractive for the automotive industries and adjacent markets which need EV battery technology. Even industries that aren’t necessarily looking at EVB technology but have chemical processes that are similar and are not accurately modeled with existing tools should be closely monitoring the disruptive capabilities of quantum computers on these types of problems.”