The Global Positioning System is something most Americans take for
granted. It's one of those things, like radio waves and cellphone
service, that just seems "there." As if it were always "there" and will
always be "there." It's almost as if the world was created with GPS,
mostly because there's no monthly fee to tap into the satellites, and
just about every smartphone now has GPS
capabilities built right in. So,
it's fair to take it all for granted, right? Well, not really.
GPS may be there for all to enjoy, but it's not free. In fact, it
doesn't even come cheap. The GPS system we're used to now has been
around for awhile, and it's about time to start thinking about upgrades.
According to a new report in the LA Times, a variety of scientists and
engineers are now looking at ways to piece together the hardware and
logistics necessary in order to get ready for and implement an $8
billion upgrade that will make GPS "more reliable, more widespread and
much more accurate."
Today, GPS locks are said to be accurate within 20 feet or so; after the
upgrade, that will improve to "within an arm's reach." Marco Caceres,
senior space analyst for aerospace research firm Teal
Group, explained that the "new system has the potential to deliver
capabilities we haven't seen yet," and "because GPS touches so many
industries, it's hard to imagine what industry
wouldn't be affected." Each of the 24 satellites that make up the
current GPS arrangement will be replaced one by one, with the total
overhaul taking over a decade. The entire project will be overseen by
engineers at Los Angeles Air Force Base in El Segundo, California.
Of course, the upgrades will come at the expense of the taxpayer, but $8
billion is a small overall price to pay to ensure that everyone with a
GPS system can find their nearest Starbucks and navigate to the owner of
that doggie crate they're trying to buy off of Craigslist. You may
think we're kidding, but the GPS system has had a very meaningful impact
in society and on our economy--think of this as an investment in your
future, and think about how bad you wish GPS were more accurate the next
time you hear "arriving at destination" 800 feet before you're actually
supposed to stop.