Traffic in Seattle. Photo: George Rose/Getty Images

Ford and Microsoft have figured out how to leverage quantum computing — the powerful but not yet commercialized technology — to tackle traffic in Seattle.

Why it matters: By running quantum-inspired algorithms on conventional computer hardware, companies can process more data, giving them a head start on solving complex problems like how to direct thousands of vehicles simultaneously to smooth traffic flow.

  • "We don’t have to wait until quantum computers are deployed at large scale," Ben Porter, director of business development for quantum computing at Microsoft, tells Axios.

The big picture: Imagine a family trying to get ready for work and school with similar departure times, Ken Washington, Ford's chief technology officer, writes in a new blog post.

  • "If an individual day-planning app gave each person the quickest way to get going, there likely would be a bottleneck at the bathroom. Now scale that to a family of thousands…"
  • Just as families stagger bathroom time, traffic routing software could consider all the various route requests from drivers, then optimize route suggestions to minimize the number of cars sharing the road at the same time.

Today's computers can't calculate all the possible route variations fast enough, which is where quantum computing can help, Washington writes.

  • While modern computers translate information into bits — either a 1 or a 0 —
    a quantum computer can translate information into a 1, 0, and somewhere in between, meaning a lot more information can be stored and processed on a single quantum bit.
  • Yes, but: Quantum technology is fickle and still inching from theory to practice.

Microsoft has developed a method to emulate quantum behavior on traditional computers and started working with Ford in 2018 to see how the simulated approach could help tackle real world problems today.

How it works:

  • In one scenario, 5,000 vehicles — each with 10 possible routes — requested directions across Metro Seattle simultaneously.
  • In 20 seconds, balanced routing suggestions were delivered to all 5,000 vehicles.
  • The result: total congestion improved by 73% and average commuting time dropped 8% when compared to routing each car individually, in a vacuum.

What to watch: The companies will continue to try to refine their simulated approach with the goal of using quantum computing to solve intractable problems like optimizing manufacturing processes or improving batteries for electric vehicles.

Go deeper: A surprising quantum frontrunner

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale hospitalized

Brad Parscale, the former campaign manager for President Trump's re-election campaign, at Drake University in January in Des Moines, Iowa. Photo: Tom Brenner/Getty Images

Fort Lauderdale police arrived at former Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale's home on Sunday after his wife called and said he was threatening to harm himself, Florida officials confirmed to Axios.

Details: Fort Lauderdale Police Sgt. DeAnna Greenlaw told Axios officers responded to a report of "an armed male attempting suicide" just before 4 p.m. local time.

Updated 3 hours ago - Science

California wine country wildfire prompts evacuations

The scene of the Glass Fire in St. Helena, in Napa County, California, on Sunday. Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images

Firefighters in the western U.S. were facing "critical fire weather conditions," as a rapidly spreading new wildfire in Northern California prompted fresh evacuations Sunday.

Why it matters: Wildfires have burned a record 3.6 million acres in California this year, killing 26 people and razing over 7,600 structures, per Cal Fire. Utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric cut power to 11,000 customers early Sunday and planned outages for 54,000 others later in the day because of fire risks.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Judge temporarily blocks Trump's TikTok ban

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A federal court judge on Sunday granted TikTok's request for a temporary restraining order against a ban by the Trump administration.

Why it matters: Americans will be able to continue downloading one of the country's most popular social media and entertainment apps — at least for now.