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Future Mobility: Quantum Technologies on the Campaign Trail

July 2024 by Dr Tess Skyrme, Analyste Technologique chez IDTechEx

Future mobility will be electric, autonomous, and increasingly interconnected. As a result, many new enabling technologies are now clambering to enter the automotive value chain. In recent years, there has been a surge of support for quantum technologies to enter the race. Today, a host of start-ups and established players are developing solutions using quantum computing, quantum sensing, and quantum communications specifically for the future mobility markets.

IDTechEx’s report, “Quantum Technology Market 2024-2034: Trends, Players, Forecasts”, forecasts the market to surpass US$2B by 2034, with a CAGR of over 25%, largely driven by opportunities in the automotive sector. In this article, IDTechEx highlights some of the major innovations campaigning for future mobility market success.

Sustainability issues: Quantum computers for better batteries

Quantum computers are now being investigated worldwide for their potential to solve highly complex quantum chemistry problems. Future machines are anticipated to offer a significant advantage to the speed at which the nano-scale physics of materials can be simulated, and new products can be designed (for more detail, please see IDTechEx’s quantum market research reports). This creates a significant opportunity for the more sophisticated discovery of better battery materials.

To date, designing new batteries is akin to drug discovery in that it’s an incredibly lengthy and expensive process. Classical computing is limited in the degree of accuracy in material simulation that can feasibly be achieved, and experimental trials are infamously inefficient. Quantum computing could champion sustainability not only by optimizing resource use for battery development, but also in designing inherently cleaner batteries.

Vehicle electrification has seen demand for smaller, longer-lasting, and faster-charging batteries soar. It is quite likely that the timelines on which quantum computers scale up to offer a commercial advantage will coincide with existing battery designs reaching performance limits. It would be no surprise to find that in a decade’s time, the automotive industry will pivot away from depending on traditional approaches and instead put their faith in a new candidate: quantum computing.

Economic issues: Opportunities in quantum sensors for supply chain success

Many campaigns are centered around economic issues, and of course, efforts to commercialize quantum sensor technologies are no different. The future mobility market offers a potentially high-volume supply chain opportunity for quantum technology, despite the category often being associated with bulky lab-scale equipment. This is particularly the case for quantum sensors because they could be key enablers for the next generation of vehicle electrification and autonomy.

In fact, the so-called ‘Quantum 1.0’ has already been a significant disruptor in automotive supply chains. Less exotic quantum phenomena, such as the photo-electric effect or tunneling, are essential within many of the cameras of remote, current sensors deployed in the latest vehicles on the road today. This includes tunneling magneto resistance sensors (TMRs), which have recently taken chunks out of the hall effect sensor market through their low power and galvanic isolation properties.

However, in the future, ‘Quantum 2.0’ seeks to add superposition and entanglement to the automotive market manifesto. For example, a host of quantum sensors are in development that can offer more precise navigation and positioning solutions. Highly accurate and un-reliant on jammable GPS, atomic clocks, and quantum inertial sensors could take on-board positional accuracy down from meters to centimeters.

As the safety and robustness of autonomous systems come under increased regulations in the years ahead, highly accurate sensors will only increase in value. The major challenge today is in miniaturizing quantum sensor technologies to be market-ready in terms of size, weight, power, and cost. As such, becoming a leader in manufacturing critical quantum components for quantum sensors has been picked out by multiple governments as a vessel for economic growth. For more insights on quantum sensors and quantum national strategies, see IDTechEx’s dedicated report on the Quantum Sensor Market.

National security issues: Cybersecurity solutions for the V2X era

National security, in particular cybersecurity vulnerabilities, are regularly in the spotlight. The world is increasingly dependent on the safe transfer of data. The risks of a cybersecurity breach in the future mobility markets are stark. Control taken of autonomous vehicles by bad actors is the stuff of thriller movies. Moreover, vehicles are increasingly connected to one another and the wider internet of things in the shift towards ‘vehicle to everything’ (V2X). This is anticipated to include more sensitive information about people’s health as driver monitoring regulations solidify.

Quantum is pitched to play a vital role in shaping the future of cybersecurity, including within the future mobility market. On the one hand, quantum computers of the future could act as tools to break encrypted streams of data. The advantage they offer in computing could be misused to overcome established methods such as RSA. On the other hand, quantum offers a solution for the next generation of cryptography. First through software-based post quantum cryptography (PQC), and later with optical-based quantum key distribution (QKD). Also, quantum random number generators are already being designed to integrate within hardware security modules for automotive.

Automotive OEMs are already strategizing how future vehicle designs must remain robust to data security threats, arguably focusing today on the impact of AI. Overall, however, the fast-shifting landscape of cybersecurity threats makes it essential that the industry grapples with the challenges and opportunities offered by quantum communications now, before it’s too late.

Market outlook

Overall, the message from the quantum technology market camp is not to remain undecided – but to engage today with exploring the opportunities on offer. There is continual, targeted development to meet the needs of the future mobility demographic found across the quantum computing, sensing, and communications verticals. Ultimately, the power is largely now with automotive OEMs, who will ultimately vote with their feet when it comes to incorporating quantum technology into their value chains.

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