Why GPS could keep its American accent

Europe has a plan for its own version of the Global Positioning System (GPS), but the over-budget, overdue Galileo system may never actually come into being.

The global positioning system that guides car and handheld navigation devices was first set up by and for the U.S. military. Russia has its system. China and Japan have ones that don't yet cover all the earth. But a project to end Europe's dependence on American GPS could run up against a budget ax.

The European Union is taking a hard look this week at its longer term spending and its civilian-controlled Galileo navigation system could take a hit. Galileo is so far costing three times what was projected.

"There has been a lot of discussion within the European Union as to why Europe needs this. European politicans feel that this is a way for Europe to sort of stand on it's own two feet, to be autonomous, to not rely on the American GPS system," says Cyrus Farivar, senior business editor for the tech publication Ars Technica. "At the same time, a lot of people are worried about the ever mounting cost of this program that seems to be burdened with promising too much and under-delivering."

The plan called for 30 satellites for Europe's GPS.  It only has four working now. Unlike the American GPS, Europe's is under civilian, not military, control.

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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