Sat-nav errors could be a thing of the past, once a new European satellite system is up and running. Four spacecraft were launched on Thursday this week, where they’ll join the fourteen already floating around above us.
Although still short of six satellites, this will be enough to start an initial service, which should be in place in the next few weeks. At that point, mobile phone users with the very latest smartphones and other types of receivers should be able to start picking up the system’s signals and so get a more accurate fix on where they are.
The European Commission and the European Space Agency are behind the project. Their new global navigation system is called Galileo and will use next-generation technologies that are ‘designed to provide users with quicker, more reliable fixes, enabling them to locate their positions with a general error of one metre, compared with the current GPS error of several metres’.
The GPS system that we all currently use is owned by the US and although it has already revolutionised travel, the European Commission believes its own new service will ‘bring significant returns to member-state economies in the form of new businesses that can exploit this better precision’.
It may bring more business to member-states, but we’ll all then miss out on something equally important; all the stories of sat-nav journeys that have gone wrong.
What will happen to people like the group of friends from Gloucestershire that reportedly ended up in the village of Lille in Belgium and not the city of Lille in France, as they intended, after embarking on a Christmas shopping trip across the Channel? Presumably they’ll get to the right place?
Or how about the Syrian truck driver who once drove a 32-tonne vehicle to Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire, when he was actually looking for the island of Gibraltar? A detour of only 1,600-miles so a considerably larger fuel bill.
On second thoughts, perhaps the new Galileo system may be a good thing