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Crikey! Australia is Moving Six Feet North So Driverless Cars Can Navigate

Starting in 2017, Australia will move its official longitude and latitude coordinates about 6 feet north due to a continental tectonic drift.

Between the jumping, over-sized rats-with-belly-pouches and the penchant for a barely edible substance known as "Vegemite," to some people it may appear that Australia is a bit off. Now steps are being taken to fix it.

Starting in 2017, the country's government will move the official longitude and latitude coordinates of the continent about 6 feet north (1.8 meters, to be precise). Driverless cars, but mostly tectonic plates, are to blame.

Every year the Australian continent drifts about 2.7 inches north because of the slow sliding of the Earth's lithosphere. It's hardly enough to trip you up, but it can throw off any computer system that relies on pinpoint map accuracy.

Map of Australia
Map of Australia, a continent on the move.Google Maps

The last time the coordinates were updated by the Geocentric Datum of Australia, the country's local co-ordinate system, was 1994. That's a problem for the growing numbers of driverless tractors now. In the future it will be an issue for driverless cars.

"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 co-ordinates coming out of the navigation system there will be problems," Dan Jaksa of Geoscience Australia told the BBC.

The chief scientist at Australian telecommunications giant Telstra recently predicted all cars in Australia will be driverless by the year 2030.

"If you want to start using driverless cars, accurate map information is fundamental," said Jaska.

You wouldn't want an autonomous vehicle to get confused and go careening through some clothes hoists and slam into a Queenslander now would ya?