Gps: Now It's Really Precise

For transportation companies and other commercial users of the global positioning system (GPS), the world looks a bit sharper. Before, the Pentagon had blocked civilian use of its most precise GPS signals, limiting the accuracy of the public system to 100 yards. But consumers wanted more precision. So, private land- and satellite-based services began to offer signals accurate to the one-centimeter level. The problem was the prices were too high for the typical trucker or farmer.

On May 1, the U.S. government decided to relax controls on the more affordable civilian system, making it 10 times more accurate. For users of this regular GPS service, better signals mean safer, faster routes for boats, trucks, and planes and more accurate surveying. Thanks to more detailed fishing maps and improved field management by farmers, there is also more food on the table. The Defense Dept., meanwhile, continues to retain control of an even more accurate signal for military applications.

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