Autonomous driving isn’t a novelty anymore. Many mainstream manufacturers have incorporated the technology into their cars that lets them be piloted with minimum driver invention or none at all. We ourselves have tested, nervously, the self-driving capabilities of a Volvo XC90 and S90 on the roads of Dubai. Now, Mercedes-Benz has claimed the first official automated test drive of a car on a UAE road. On November 4, a Mercedes E-Class did an automated drive from Dubai all the way to Abu Dhabi on the E11 highway.

The drive, overseen by engineers flown in from Germany, was also validated by the Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology (ESMA) and was done in collaboration with the Road Transport Authority (RTA). “The Emirates Authority for Standardization and Metrology is keen to drive the vision of green development and shape the mobility sector by supporting new technologies and creating national standards that attract investments and enhance trade in the area. Through our collaboration with lead vehicle manufacturers, autonomous vehicles can achieve amazing results including assuring the highest level of road safety, reducing financial losses and preserving the environment,” says Abdulla Al Maeeni, director general of ESMA.

However, one point to be noted is that the E-Class used for the drive was not a standard model available for sale. The particular car had its Drive Pilot assistance system tweaked with specific software modifications to enable this drive. These modifications were developed specifically for testing purposes, and are not a standard feature of the E-Class. Mercedes says the test car used its intelligent sensor fusion technology, to complete a smooth automated drive by controlling the distance to the vehicle in front, and detecting road markings as well as surrounding vehicles.

“We are proud and delighted that this modified Mercedes-Benz E-Class is the world's first vehicle to drive automated on a major highway in UAE. This test drive constitutes a major step towards our vision of autonomous driving. We have been working tirelessly to achieve this milestone,” says Mark De Haes, president and CEO, Mercedes-Benz Cars Middle East.