A self-driving Mercedes semi has completed the UAE’s first ever semi-autonomous heavy vehicle run between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The demonstration was staged to test how it would fare with challenges including hot weather and traffic patterns.

The Mercedes Actros truck drove itself over 140km, watched over by Emirates Authority for Standardisation and Metrology (ESMA). The government authority announced this successful run at the fifth International Conference on Future Mobility (ICFM).

His Excellency Abdulla Abdulqader Al Maeeni, Director General of ESMA.

The United Arab Emirates is on the cusp of introducing autonomous mobility to its public roads, pioneering the legislation and regulations surrounding self-driving vehicles.

Abdulla Abdulqader Al Maeeni, Director General of ESMA, commented that the trial was conducted on a public road instead of a closed track to assess the vehicle’s real-world response to moving vehicles on normal roads. The main challenges faced by the self-driving semi included sudden stoppages and changes in direction by other vehicles sharing the road. Crucially, its ability to operate under extreme hot weather was also tested.

Al Maeeni had said earlier this week that self-driving cars could hit UAE roads by 2021. A draft law proposed by ESMA about regulations related to insurance, traffic departments, registration, technical requirements, connectivity, safety, and security will be discussed this week. If found ideal and fool proof, it will be adopted soon, according to Al Maeeni.

UAE has been at the forefront of technological advancements in recent years, and is preparing to be the first country in the world to have the standards and regulations for autonomous vehicles. The final standards will be issued in 2020, with autonomous vehicles set to enter the UAE market within one year.

Apart from ESMA’s regulations for autonomous vehicles, relevant authorities in related sectors such as insurance, finance, city administration will also have to issue regulations accommodating the new laws. Al Maeeni said that the UAE has been a pioneer in issuing standards and regulations in this regard.

ESMA tested the autonomous Mercedes Actros truck over 140km, verifying its ability to operate safely on public roads.

The autonomous vehicle movement was floated back in April 2019 by Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who issued a resolution to regulate autonomous vehicle testing in Dubai. This was part of the first phase of a legislative framework being put in place to ensure optimum efficiency, reliability, and security of smart mobility.