Transport could be vulnerable with GPS, suggests DOT report

by Canadian Shipper

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) has released the results of a study which suggests that transportation infrastructure thuleat relies on the Global Positioning System (GPS) is vulnerable, since GPS is susceptible to unintentional disruption from such causes as atmospheric effects, signal blockage from buildings, and interference from communications equipment, as well as to potential deliberate disruption.

The report, Vulnerability Assessment of the Transportation Infrastructure Relying on the Global Positioning System, has been made available to the public to improve user awareness of the vulnerabilities of GPS and avoid over-reliance on GPS in safety-critical situations. It may be obtained through the U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center website at

The study contains a number of recommendations to address the possibility of disruption and ensure the safety of the national transportation infrastructure.
The report was mandated by a Presidential Decision Directive and prepared by the DOT Volpe National Transportation Systems Center.

Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta charged the administrators of each DOT operating administration to thoroughly review this report and consider the adequacy of backup systems for each area of operation in which GPS is being used for critical transportation applications. The administrators are to report their findings back to the Secretary within 60 days.

All modes of transportation are increasingly reliant on GPS and, according to the study, GPS is susceptible to various forms of interference. This study identified transportation operations that employ GPS, methods for GPS disruption, possible impacts to transportation safety, and approaches to ensure service reliability.

The report recommends creating awareness among the aviation, maritime and surface user communities of the vulnerability of GPS and the need to reduce degradation or loss of the GPS signal, implementing systems to monitor, report and locate unintentional interference to GPS, assessing the applicability of military GPS anti-jamming technology and work with DOD and industry to make appropriate technologies available for civilian uses, identifying appropriate backup systems, integrity warning, or operational procedures for each safety-critical application, encouraging the development of low-cost systems as backups to GPS, and continuing the ongoing GPS modernization program involving higher GPS broadcast power and the eventual availability of three civil frequencies.

The department will soon announce a public meeting, to be held in early October, to solicit views on the study. An additional public meeting will be scheduled by mid-December to present the department’s response to the study’s recommendations.

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