… That Australia will move northwards by 1.8m (5.9 feet) on New Year’s Day 2017? It’s not related to an apocalyptic shift in plate tectonics! However the continental drift does play a role.
The Australian Plate is moving about 7 centimeters (2.8 inches) northwards every single year. This motion has accumulated over the decades to produce a significant discrepancy between local coordinates on maps and global coordinates in digital navigation systems used by satellites.
At present, this difference amounts to an error of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). This is enough to cause a problem to anything in Australia that uses GPS-like systems, including smartphones and vehicles.
“If you want to start using driverless cars, accurate map information is fundamental,” Dan Jaksa, a member of Geoscience Australia, told BBC News. “We have tractors in Australia starting to go around farms without a driver, and if the information about the farm doesn’t line up with the coordinates coming out of the navigation system there will be problems.”
In order to stave off a grim future where autonomous tractors plough into helpless farm animals by mistake, the nation’s local coordinates will jump northwards at the start of next year. By 2020, the inexorable march of plate tectonics will catch up to the adjustment, and both the analogue and digital coordinate sets will match up for the first time since 1994, when the local coordinate system was last updated.
Brace yourself, China, we are coming… slowly but surely…