GTI + Underworld - Play The Road

The Original Golf GTI was an innovation project, inventing the ‘Hot hatch’ category and a driving experience that created a generation of motoring enthusiasts. Now Volkswagen and Underworld collaborate on an innovative project that allows you to create music as you drive. Yet again the result is a unique and exhilarating driving experience.

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The Play the Road app reads how and where you drive, translating it into music live.

It requests speed and RPM information from the GTI's on-board computer. Steering, acceleration and location data is calculated from a combination of the iPhones accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS receiver. All the data is filtered, smoothed and analysed before the musical programming language PD (Pure Data) translates it in to music live. Keeping up with the GTI, even at top speed.

The innovative app reads how and where you drive, translating it into music live. The app gets speed and RPM data from the GTI’s on-board computer. The steering acceleration and location data is calculated from a combination of the accelerometer, gyroscope and GPS receiver present in the iPhone. All of the data collected is filtered and smoothed before use.

The application makes use of the musical programming language PD (Pure Data) to generate the music and effects live. So you create unique music with your drive in real time. Driving Music reinvented.

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Understanding the GTI driving experience

I think we all felt from the beginning that if it was just an experiment that produced an experimental result and that was it then it was going to be a failure. It needed to arouse emotions, as music does.

Rick Smith – Underworld

Data capture

Before Underworld could compose appropriate driving music we had to gather as much information about the GTI driving experience as possible. Using the accelerometer and gyroscope in the smart phone we captured data recordings of the car performing manoeuvres. Cross-referencing the data with video footage we could then start to attribute data patterns to car behaviours.

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Along with the help of Audio Specialist Nick Ryan, Underworld began composing based on the driving data collected. The challenge was to create a musical soundscape rather than a linear composition. To do this they created musical stems that could be attributed to locations and specific driving behaviours.

We want to listen to this bit of data here, but then we want to stop listening to it here and listen to this completely different bit of data here. How they all interweave, that’s where the comlication of the project starts to multiply.

Yuli Levtov - Reactive Music Producer


Using the musical program language PD (Pure Data) the music and data were brought together. Different musical motifs were attached to different data streams, so the cars movements or locations would trigger and effect the music live.

The only way to refine the composition was to drive it, over and over. Allowing the team to identify locations in the soundscape where the composition and PD patch could be tightened. The GTI became an office for Underworld, Nick, Yuli and the precision driver Steve Gault, until the final composition was finished.

Responsive music presents the musician with completely new freedoms of expression. It allows them to design ‘experiences’ for listeners, which are contextual to the listener’s environment, their activity and their behaviour.

Nick Ryan - Creative Producer and Audio Specialist