VW Turns A Car Into A Musical Instrument

VW teams with electronic veterans Underworld and Tribal to allow drivers to make their trips even more musical.

Volkswagen Golf GTI has joined forces with Underworld, the British dance act, to develop software that enables a driver to compose in real-time a unique piece of music dictated by the way they drive, as they drive.


The app, which sits at the heart of what VW is calling the “Play the Road experience,” synchronizes motion, technology, and music.

By combining engine data from the Golf GTI’s on-board computer, steering, acceleration and GPS data, every turn of the wheel, shift in gear or change in location creates music from exclusive and original musical elements specially composed for the project by Underworld, whose most famous track “Born Slippy” featured, of course, in the movie Trainspotting.

“The idea arose out of a desire to do something that would underline the originality of the Golf GTI and further elevate the driving experience following a number of in-car refinements,” says Matt Oxley, head of creative technology at Tribal Worldwide, London, which created “Play the Road.”

“Music is a fertile territory for a car brand. Everyone has their favorite music to drive to, so we set out to see how to take this to another level.”

However the end result went far further than anyone expected. “It’s more advanced and more complex. But that’s what happened when we deconstructed both the driving experience and music then recreated both into a single, synchronized experience,” he adds.

Underworld readily embraced the challenge of composing musical assets a driver would then be able to manipulate through their driving behavior–in effect, turning the car into a musical instrument and the driver into a musician.


Following extensive testing, the teams from VW and Tribal Worldwide staged a track day at which participants were given an opportunity to compose original melodies while driving by adjusting their driving in response to different environments–wooded areas and open spaces, for example.

The results were not what you might expect, Oxley reveals: “‘Play The Road’ is about encouraging people to explore what they can create by adjusting their driving–a rewarding and amusing experience that, we found, led to participants being more likely to drive like Driving Miss Daisy!”

The ‘Play The Road’ experience, launched today, November 22, with an online film, is not available for general release. Instead, it will be used by VW in controlled environments for competitions and track days. The public will have their first opportunity to drive the VW Golf GTI with Play the Road Experience by entering a Facebook competition.

The film, meanwhile, recreates a track which was composed by Underworld using the app when driving in closed-off streets. It features a precision driver and was shot in a controlled environment.

About the author

Meg Carter is a UK-based freelance journalist who has written widely on all aspects of branding, media, marketing & creativity for a wide range of outlets including The Independent, Financial Times and Guardian newspapers, New Media Age and Wired.