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BMW looks to quantum computers to speed R&D

Pasqal to provide compute based on approaches by Qu&Co acquisition

BMW has become the latest company to give quantum an early chance, with the goal of shrinking development cycles beyond traditional means.

Quantum computing systems and software startup Pasqal announced that it is partnering with the German automaker, which will use the French biz's proprietary differential-equation-solving algorithm to test quantum computing's applicability to metal-forming modeling.

BMW is experimenting with Pasqal's systems to reduce time spent building and testing physical models of metal components, which often have to be minutely tweaked after testing to achieve the results designers and engineers want.

Today's computational systems, Pasqal claimed, are unable to simulate an entire vehicle with enough detail to get accurate data about a single part. Pasqal said its systems will help BMW develop lighter parts and more efficient vehicles.

Describing itself as a manufacturer of neutral-atom quantum processors, Pasqal says that its systems use a digital-analog implementation of quantum algorithms tailored for use on its processors. Pasqal claims this combination of software and hardware makes their systems 30 times more efficient than competing systems, although to be fair, comparisons among quantum systems is as nebulous as the technology itself. 

As part of the project, Pasqal told The Register it expects to use its cloud-based quantum processors to analyze data, as well as its full stack of quantum computing software.

Who did the work?

Pasqal, which is working with Saudi Aramco to explore quantum computing in the energy sector, came to its new agreement after winning the BMW Group Quantum Computing Challenge in late 2021. Clicking through to that link won't show Pasqal's name on the list though. It absorbed one of the four winners, Qu&Co, in January 2022 after the challenge had already concluded and the top scores had been announced.

Qu&Co won for their material deformation simulation, which is described on the BMW challenge's website as an "approach to solving partial differential equations in the field of numerical simulation." That sounds an awful lot like the differential equation-solving algorithm that BMW is interested in.

Speaking to The Register, a Pasqal spokesperson said it purchased Qu&Co in order to have a single company able to offer "a full-stack quantum solution," as Pasqal focuses on quantum computer hardware development, while Qu&Co's work was with algorithms and software.

"Consequently, Pasqal is now the only company on the market which can offer the solution BMW is interested in, which is an important reason why the German automaker has retained Pasqal for this next mandate," the Pasqal spokesperson asserted. 

Pasqal did not directly answer questions about whether any of its people were involved with Qu&Co's work on the BMW project prior to the acquisition, nor did the company say whether or not it participated independently in the BMW competition.

It does appear that Pasqal entered the contest based on a GitHub project titled "bmwchallenge" which has been unaltered since shortly after submissions closed. BMW didn't make a list of the 15 finalists or 70 entrants readily available, so it's unknown how Pasqal's own efforts in the challenge fared. ®

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