Will.i.am and Mercedes-Benz Announce ‘Sound Drive’ — Real-Time In-Car Musical Responses to Steering, Acceleration, and More

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Will.i.am and Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer. Photo Credit: Mercedes-Benz

Will.i.am and Mercedes-Benz’s AMG have unveiled a “groundbreaking” in-car feature, dubbed Sound Drive, that complements driving with auto-generated musical responses in real time.

The Los Angeles-born creator and AMG (the Mercedes-Benz unit that, per its own description, “specializes in unique, high-performance vehicles”) emailed Digital Music News this morning about Sound Drive.

As summarized by Will.i.am and the vehicle manufacturer, the forthcoming offering, set for a “mid-2024” rollout, will render each compatible car (referring to Mercedes-Benz and AMG vehicles equipped with a second-generation MBUX system) a “virtual musical instrument.”

To be sure, “a suite of sensors and advanced software” is expected to respond to acceleration, steering, braking, and more, converting these “driving dynamics…into musical expressions,” according to the long-partnered “Scream & Shout” artist and the nearly century-old company.

Though it remains to be seen whether Sound Drive will divert easily distracted drivers’ attention from the road – fatal car crashes have been on the rise since well before the advent of behind-the-wheel music creation – Mercedes-Benz emphasized the technology’s potential ability “to reduce stress and enhance concentration.”

Sound Drive “is also capable of syncing with other in-car ‘signals,’” Mercedes-Benz indicated on this front. “One example could be the windscreen rain sensors that provide soothing rhythms during inclement weather to reduce stress and enhance concentration.”

In any event, drivers will be able “to ‘compose’ in real-time” when the “interactive music experience” arrives in select vehicles, Mercedes-Benz relayed. Bigger picture, the entity drove home that “an immersive sound experience is just one part of the story.”

“The long-term goal with MBUX SOUND DRIVE is to turn the technology into an open music platform,” spelled out Mercedes-Benz/AMG. “As a result, artists from around the world could create tracks, representing any music genre, in a new immersive audio format using MBUX SOUND DRIVE studio software.”

Shorter term, the involved parties have scheduled for this afternoon a CES 2024 Sound Drive presentation from Mercedes-Benz CTO Markus Schäfer and Will.i.am.

Additionally, the vehicle maker says it’s affording attendees the chance to try out the music-powered tool (once again at the annual consumer-tech happening) in test drives; CES 2024 officially kicked off today and is scheduled to wrap on the 12th.

Addressing Sound Drive’s perceived significance in a statement, 48-year-old Will.i.am touted the product as “a new frontier for music creation.”

“Imagine a world where your car can become an instrument creating musical journeys,” the seven-time Grammy winner communicated. “MBUX SOUND DRIVE enhances driving and sound technology, letting motorists reshape music just by driving.

“I’m excited to see how composers, producers, and songwriters will harness this to create new works and reimagine classics for motorist[s] to drive to. MBUX SOUND DRIVE is not only a new frontier for music creation, but also opens up fresh, exciting and interactive listening experiences for drivers,” finished the Black Eyed Peas founder.