Iconic musician and entrepreneur Will.i.am has unveiled his latest startup, Sound Drive, at CES 2024. The company aims to transform the in-car music experience by allowing drivers to DJ and produce original music from the driver’s seat.
Sound Drive Offers In-Car Music Production and Remixing
Sound Drive has partnered with Mercedes-Benz to integrate its music production software into MBUX Hyperscreen dashboards. Drivers will be able to remix songs and create original beats while on the move.
The software includesPRODUCE 101, a simplified music production interface allowing users to select instruments, drum patterns, edit melodies, and add effects. There is also a REMIX machine using AI to break down tracks into stems that can be creatively rearranged.
Advanced sonic visualization brings the music production process to life. Animated sound waves and equalizers pulse in time, making editing intuitive.
“We’re reinventing in-car entertainment and bringing music production to theDashboard so you can be creative from the driver’s seat,” said Will.i.am at the CES launch. “Even in a traffic jam, you can turn that time into creative time.”
Partnership With Mercedes-AMG
As part of a close partnership with Mercedes-Benz, Sound Drive will launch first on the Mercedes-AMG SL roadster.
“Will.i.am is a truly creative pioneer of our times,” said Britta Seeger, Member of the Board of Management of Mercedes‐Benz Group AG. “With Sound Drive’s innovative approach to in-vehicle music, our customers will be amazed at what they can create on the move.”
The software is optimized for Mercedes’ MBUX Hyperscreen – a curved dashboard display spanning pillar to pillar. Sound production takes place via touch input on the central 17.7-inch OLED screen.
Advanced visualization using the Hyperscreen’s powerful 3D graphics engine aims to make music production intuitive whilst driving.
Business Model Focuses on Original Music
Rather than directly competing with streaming giants like Spotify, Sound Drive wants to empower a new generation of in-car music producers.
The startup’s business model focuses on original creations rather than licensed music. Users can share their tracks through Sound Drive’s built-in social features and collaboration tools.
Popular tracks will be promoted by algorithms and curators, creating the next big platform for discovering rising talent. Users stand to earn royalties if their music gets shared widely.
There are also plans to integrate branded content, sponsorship deals and live performances with artists that can be experienced from the driver’s seat via the MBUX Hyperscreen.
Roll Out to Further Mercedes and EV Models
Sound Drive will launch first on the Mercedes-AMG SL, available from summer 2024. Additional Mercedes-Benz model lines will offer the software later in 2024.
As Mercedes shifts towards electric vehicles over the coming decade, Sound Drive is expected to roll out across the company’s EQ sub-brand of EVs.
“We designed Sound Drive based on the vision of entertainment in autonomous electric vehicles of the future.” said Will.i.am at CES. “But the tech is ready now to reshape your ride today — even for drivers who want to keep their hands on the wheel.”
Will.i.am’s Vision to Reshape In-Car Entertainment
The launch of Sound Drive ties in with Will.i.am’s long running passion for future mobility. He has been working with Mercedes-Benz on reimagining the in-car experience since 2017.
This startup also represents the musician’s broader vision to integrate music production and technical creativity into our everyday lives. By bringing simplified tools for making music into the car cabin, Will.i.am aims to inspire new forms of entertainment and artistic expression.
The partnership with Mercedes-Benz now brings this vision to reality. With Sound Drive rolling out across new model lines over the coming years, Will.i.am is posed to disrupt and reshape ubiquitous in-car entertainment systems for the modern era.
Outlook for Wider Adoption
Following the initial Mercedes-Benz partnership, there are big opportunities for Sound Drive to expand.
As cars become more connected, autonomous electric vehicles emerge, and cabin screens grow ever larger, Sound Drive is primed for integration into additional auto brands.
There is also potential for the software to move beyond automotive applications. The simplified interfaces for music making could readily pair with other types of transportation and environments.
With portable technology like smartphones and tablets, Sound Drive may one day enable music production anywhere, not just from the driver’s seat.
This startup plans to introduce creative tools once locked away in professional studios to totally new contexts. If Sound Drive takes off as envisioned, it could democratize music innovation and expand how the artists of tomorrow access their talent.
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