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GPS confused, Australia is 1.5 metres out of place

Australia moving
Global measurements   The Australian plate is moving 0.3mm per year

Driverless technology and other intelligent systems like satellite farming require Australia's longitude and latitude to be corrected, scientists say.

Australia's coordinates are out by more than 1.5 metres and that could have major implications for new technologies that rely on global positioning systems (GPS).

Dan Jaksa from Geoscience Australia is working with a team of scientists from national, state and territory governments to modernise Australia's coordinate system, the datum, to close the gap and avoid problems in the future.

This has happened four times in the last 50 years. We're currently using GDA94 (Geocentric Datum Australia 1994) and will move to the GDA2020 next year.

At the moment the smart devices have to adjust everything because the information you have doesn't line up with the physical position.

"With the applications that are coming in intelligent transport systems â?" like driverless cars â?" if you're 1.5m out then you're in another lane.

"So the map information those systems use need to be coincident with the navigation system they're using which is GPS.

"Quite frankly, we need to update the datum if they're going to become a reality."

Jaksa said other areas that will require the new coordinate system are precision agriculture, or satellite farming, and surveying.

Australia is moving north by about 7 centimetres each year, colliding with the Pacific Plate, which is moving west about 11cm each year.

"The plates move, but because the plates are rigid and stressors are built up between the plates, then the way in which that stress is released is by an earthquake."

Jaksa said: In 15 million years the Australian plate will travel about 1,000 kilometres north. We're rotating clockwise at a rate of 0.6 degrees per million years. In that million years the direction of north would change by about 10cm.

"There are new technologies coming through that will facilitate the real time accuracies of GPS systems down to 3cm," Mr Jaksa said.

Global measurements are becoming far more accessible and far more accurate. The new coordenates will be ready by January 2017.


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