GPS System Getting An $8 Billion Location Makeover

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.

Tags:  GPS, navigation, Nav, army