Australia can't stand still. The earth's crust is constantly moving. Over the past generation, the country has moved approximately a metre-and-a-half. The movement has put the country out of sync with GPS systems and has caused local and global coordinates, which are used to produce maps, to be off by 145cm. It might not seem a lot but in a driverless car, it could be the difference between staying on the road and running into a ditch. In an effort to reflect Australia's new location, the government will officially update the country's new latitude and longitude this year.
Moving at a rate of roughly 7.5cm per year, the Australian plate is one of the fastest moving continental plates requiring an update to GPS coordinates four times every 50 years. The last time Australia changed its GPS coordinates was in 1994.
While a distance of five feet doesn't seem like a big deal, since your smartphone's GPS system is accurate to approximately 5 to 12 metres, the disparity could drastically affect driverless vehicles. In the US, the average width of a highway lane is roughly 4 metres. If an autopilot system is off by 1.5 metres, a car could potentially be driven into a ditch or into the opposite lane of traffic.
Since the Australian continent moves at a rapid pace, the country's coordinates will be need to be monitored and updated far more regularly into the future as driverless vehicles become as common as expected.
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