QuantUM*Lot to provide additional parking capacity on University of Michigan North Campus

A quantum parking lot will be completed this summer in front of the new Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building.
Parking lot

APRIL 1, 2024 – The University of Michigan announced plans today for QuantUM*Lot, a quantum parking lot. QuantUM*Lot will be located in front of the state-of-the-art, still under construction, Leinweber Computer Science and Information Building on North Campus. Believed to be the first of its kind, the QuantUM*Lot will provide expanded parking to accommodate the expected increase in demand for parking once the new building opens.

As on many university campuses, parking is hard to find on North Campus. The anticipated completion in 2025 of the 163,000 square foot Leinweber Building will bring more faculty, staff, and students to North Campus, and is expected to exacerbate this problem.

In response to this pressing need, researchers in Computer Science and Engineering have developed a novel solution that increases parking capacity without the need to consume additional space.

 “Applying quantum mechanics to vehicular parking is a first-of-its-kind endeavor,” said Richard H. Orenstein Division Chair of CSE Michael Wellman, “and is part of a bold University effort to overcome classical parking limits.”

While the concept of one parking spot holding many vehicles at once might defy belief, rapid advances in quantum technology have redefined what is possible in the physics of parking.

“The crux of quantum mechanics is that an object can be in two states at once. It can be in one place or the other at the same time,” said CSE professor Chris Peikert, who led the research effort. “Our research team has determined a method for applying this principle for the development of the quantum parking lot. As a result, a car in this lot can be in a parking spot and also not in a parking spot, allowing us to fit many more cars into that single space.”

To accomplish this, the researchers leveraged the principles of quantum computing, utilizing ideas that previously existed only in theoretical form and applying them to the real world. The result of these efforts is a dramatic increase in the parking capacity of the planned Leinweber Building lot.

“Every parking space in the new lot can be in some combination of occupied or unoccupied, or having one car and another simultaneously,” explained Peikert. “Although QuantUM*Lot is designed to appear to have 100 physical parking spaces, by leveraging quantum entanglement we can actually have 2 to the 100 power number of parking opportunities.”

While delivering incredible capacity, quantum parking is an emerging technology. As a result, some aspects of its implementation will require an adjustment in user expectations. One persistent challenge in testing has been a difficulty in retrieving a specific vehicle after parking it in a quantum spot. 

“When you observe a quantum object, nature essentially picks a random choice among the mixture of states and kind of collapses into one of the many possible choices,” explains Peikert. “As a consequence, when you return to the spot where you parked and attempt to retrieve your car, you may in actuality receive any one of the cars that happen to be parked in that space.”

While this issue of uncertainty initially presented a concern, a survey of faculty and staff showed a remarkable openness to trade off vehicular preferences for parking convenience. 

“I’m willing to risk ending up with someone else’s car if I don’t have to worry about finding a spot,” said Christa Carr, a staff member in CSE. “Especially if it means I get to drive home in Prof. Halderman’s Maserati some evenings.”

While QuantUM*Lot represents a big step forward in harnessing the power of quantum computing for societal benefit, Peikert views it as a first step. His research team is already investigating another challenge faced by the university, that of a growing need for office and desk space.

“Through the use of quantum offices, we could have more than one person occupying a space at one time,” said Peikert. “And I could be in my office and not in my office simultaneously.”