In navigation, dead reckoning is the process of calculating the current position of a moving object by using a previously determined position, or fix, and incorporating estimates of speed, heading (or direction or course), and elapsed time. The corresponding term in biology, to describe the processes by which animals update their estimates of position or heading, is path integration.
Dead reckoning is subject to cumulative errors. Advances in navigational aids that give accurate information on position, in particular satellite navigation using the Global Positioning System, have made simple dead reckoning by humans obsolete for most purposes. However, inertial navigation systems, which provide very accurate directional information, use dead reckoning and are very widely applied.
The term "dead reckoning" was not originally used to abbreviate "deduced reckoning," nor is it a misspelling of the term "ded reckoning." The use of "ded" or "deduced reckoning" is not known to have appeared earlier than 1931, much later in history than "dead reckoning" appearing as early as 1613 in the Oxford English Dictionary. The original intention of "dead" in the term is not clear however. Whether it is used to convey "absolute" as in "dead ahead," reckoning using other objects that are "dead in the water," or using reckoning properly "you’re dead if you don’t reckon right," is not known.