LONDON, July 1 — As dealerships face declining sales, the automotive industry is working on ways to draw potential buyers to cars. Many are betting on music to do this, stepping up initiatives to make the audio experience an even more integral part of the vehicles of the future.

For some, the vehicles of the future will be autonomous, for others, they will be hydrogen-powered or even electric. But while the future of the car is still uncertain, for Porsche, tomorrow’s models will almost certainly be musical. For two years now, the German manufacturer has been working on Soundtrack My Life, a new feature described as the first “adaptive sound function.” This system is based on mood-themed pre-composed musical elements, which change according to the driver’s driving style.

For Norman Friedenberger, this system makes it possible to further customize the in-car musical experience. “This new technology isn’t about playing personalised playlists or simply adjusting the tempo and pitch of existing music to match the car’s speed,” explains the Product Owner at Porsche Digital, responsible for Soundtrack My Life. “This [experience] is created by the driver and their journey in real time. This will then sound different for everyone -- as unique as the journey itself.”

Porsche has joined forces with Boris Salchow, who composed the various set pieces from which the car generates the music. And it’s a function that the German movie composer would have liked to have used himself. “When I moved to Los Angeles 16 years ago, I almost got out of the habit of listening to music in the car,” the artist recalls. “The music I was listening to in the car just didn’t match what I was actually experiencing. And even back then I thought someone should develop something to compensate for this.”

Music for every driving scenario

While Porsche has not yet said when Soundtrack My Life will arrive in its cars, a prototype of the feature has been integrated into one of the brand’s mobile apps. The automaker is now looking to collaborate with renowned composers to customize its in-car music. “The vision is clearly to produce exclusive material. We would work with artists specifically according to scenic specifications to create soundtracks for situations, scenery or moments: for example, for driving on country roads, at night, in city traffic or in particular regions of the world,” explains Norman Friedenberger.

Bentley shares a similar ambition, and the British subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group has turned to artificial intelligence to make it happen. The brand has partnered with LifeScore, a startup specializing in “adaptive music,” to create a soundtrack that adapts to driving conditions. Soundtracks are recorded by musicians in London’s Abbey Road Studios, before being assembled in a novel way by an artificial intelligence system.

An alternative to the radio

According to Bentley, this new technology would draw on a soundbank library containing a comprehensive suite of audio data and recordings, apparently able to compose more than 100 billion unique music tracks for a 60-minute drive. “Rather than listening to music to distract from travel, the vehicle is now able to compose an instrumental soundtrack to engage with the journey,” explains the automaker, without revealing when this system is likely to come to its vehicles. 

It remains to be seen whether these features will manage to lure drivers away from the radio. In North America, 79 per cent of Canadians and 75 per cent of Americans favor in-car radio for their trips, according to data from Edison Research. — ETX Studio