Drive and Listen: Cars and music are inextricably linked in North Mississippi, where I grew up. Almost everyone I know got a “old-school”—a domestic car from before 1990 that always needs a little TLC to go back on the road.
And if it isn’t old-school, it most likely has noises, such as custom-installed subwoofers that make the bass feel distant and tweeters that make the hi-hat seem right beside you.
Drive and Listen Most Something Website
Maybe that’s why I’ve been spending so much time with the new app Drive & Listen, which combines two of my favorite things. You may use the app to enjoy a virtual drive around more than 50 locations worldwide while listening to real-time local radio and street sounds. It’s similar to Google Streetview, but it’s in virtual reality, and you don’t have to click to go about it.
There’s also music. You can drive through Mumbai and then coast while listening to what the locals listen to. Or, in the case of “Sweet Dreams,” St. Petersburg. Alternatively, take Biscayne Boulevard to Bad Bunny.
Drive & Listen was designed by Erkam Eker, a Turkish Ph.D. student who says the concept came from pandemic-induced nostalgia for driving around Istanbul with the radio on. “I realized that other people all across the world must be missing out on that similar road trip experience,” he told Lonely Planet.
He had to be thinking of people like me. I’ve discovered a peculiar comfort in driving around with no direction or goal other than… going and listening in this last year of teleworking and a world shut down.
The software has an oddly addictive quality to it. When you initially arrive, there is a brief black and white TV static display. Then, as if someone had switched the channel, you see a full-screen view of a street somewhere, and the camera (and you) are rolling. You could be coming to a halt at a red light in Buenos Aires’ prime business district or turning onto a backstreet in Prague.
Then the radio stream starts playing, and you get the unmistakable sensation of moving through the world, attempting to get from where you are to where you want to be. That may explain why I’ve spent so much time on the site. It doesn’t feel quite right, but it’s near to what you recall.
Making sure the virtual environment mirrors the real one is one of the strategies to generating a (quasi) VR experience. The sizes and measurements of objects and distances must be accurate. It shouldn’t be overly huge. It’s not that far away. It shouldn’t be too high above the ground. With amazing regularity, Drive & Listen achieves this.
Almost all of the driving footage is captured in crystal-clear 4K, and the view is driver’s-eye level whether you’re in Rome or Chicago. You can see and feel the road disappear beneath your feet as you travel forward.
From your blind spot, an automobile appears. The radio jumps from song to song and commercial to advertisement. On my left, was that a Bank of America? When you’re close to a street sign, it’s clearest.
The appeal of Drive & Listen isn’t just that it recreates the sensation of driving with the radio on. It’s because it makes you feel in command, or at least close to it. You simply scroll and click to select a city.
Don’t like where you’re starting out? You’ll start at a different point on the path if you click the city’s name again. (Most locales have two or three beginning points to choose from.) And at least a few streaming options are available in each city. You can listen to local radio, ESPN, or NPR, or turn off the radio totally and drive without listening if that’s your preference.
You may also choose how fast you want to go and whether you want to hear what it’s like outside, such as the noise of the wind and the hum of car engines, as well as people honking their horns at each other. And, if all else fails, you may simply exchange one location for another.
Because a trip to Mumbai can rapidly develop into stops in St. Petersburg and Beijing, a few minutes on Drive & Listen can easily grow into more time than you expected. Prague, if not London. If not Paris, Tokyo is the next best option.
And this is where the app’s true magic lies: It takes a familiar activity—driving and listening—and puts it in an unusual setting. It gives the impression that the world is far away while also being immediately alongside or in front of you.
We’ve all stopped for somebody crossing the street while pretending not to notice them. Even if the crosswalk is in Havana and you’re tipping in an old-school, lime-green Plymouth Belvedere, Drive & Listen feels familiar.