Australia is moving north at the rate of approximately 2.75 inches per year, causing it to now be out of sync with global navigation satellite systems (GNSS) by nearly five feet -- so scientists are seeking a way to correct it.
The shift, caused by normal tectonic movement, is causing a massive discrepancy in global systems, so the Australian government has launched a project to align with the GNSS. To do this, the Geocentric Datum of Australia will need to be updated with proper coordinates — which hasn’t been done since 1994 — despite the fact that they have the fastest-moving continental tectonic plate on Earth.
“We have points on Australia that are fixed to Australia and the lines of latitude and longitude move with those points,” Dan Jaksa from Geoscience Australia, the national agency for geoscience research and geospatial information, told ABC. “The lines are fixed to the continent but as time goes by, that position compared to a GPS position can create a difference, so every so often we need to change that.”
By being off the satellite GPS system by 4.9 feet, technology which relies on the data is imperfect — which could create a disaster for things such as driverless cars, transportation that could become reality in the near future.
“Around the corner, in the not too distant future, we are going to have possibly driverless cars or at least autonomous vehicles where, 1.5 meters, well, you’re in the middle of the road or you’re in another lane,” Jaksa continued. “Quite frankly, we need to update the datum if they're going to become a reality.”
The update to the local coordinate system will overshoot by 7.8 inches to account for more movement and predict where the continent will be in 2020.
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