When safety directors talk about driver training, they generally mean skills training--how to back around a corner, shift correctly, secure a load, maintain a logbook and so on. At Israel-based CogniFit, LLC, however, training goes deeper than that, right down to the core cognitive functions that underpin all human activities.

“The level of cognition we deal with is very basic,” Professor Shlomo Breznitz, CogniFit president & CTO, told FleetOwner. “Our cognitive psychologists, computer scientists, programmers and others work together to develop and deliver computer-based mind exercises that sharpen the skills required for a wide range of functions, such as driving. These skills include things like short-term memory, reaction time, effective switching of attention and hand-eye coordination to name just a few.

“Driving, in some respects, is one of the biggest challenges for people, in terms of cognitive load,” Breznitz added. “It is even more challenging than flying a plane in some respects because the amount of information that has to be processed quickly is so great. We are constantly reacting to estimates of speed and distance, attending to what is happening in front of us, as well as to the sides and behind us. We make decisions about the route to travel while reacting to road signs. We respond to visual events and to sounds.

“Human brains have just not evolved for that,” he continued. “In human terms, the fastest we should need to react is the speed at which we can run, not the speed at which we can drive. I find it a miracle there are not more accidents than there are.”

To help new and experienced drivers improve the core cognitive functions required to be a safe driver, CogniFit developed a family of products called DriveFit , including FleetFit for commercial drivers, which is designed to help fleet managers assess and screen drivers, profile high-risk drivers, conduct periodic driver check-ups, upgrade driver skills on a targeted basis and reduce insurance costs by improving safety performance.

“We have very good data linking performance on DriveFit to driver safety,” Breznitz said. “In fact, giving drivers our assessment prior to training in a driving simulator enabled us to accurately predict the likelihood of an accident on the simulator.

“We know that past performance is also an indicator of future performance when it comes to driver safety, but the problem with that as an indicator of risk is that you need so much data about a driver’s past performance,” he noted. “Our system needs no past driving information. Adding cognitive assessment of your drivers’ skill levels to any assessment based on past driving behavior is really a better indicator of future driving performance.”

According to Breznitz, DriveFit is not only good at predicting driver risk, it appears to be a good indicator of how well a driver will operate a vehicle for fuel efficiency, too. “One area we are very anxious to explore further is the relationship between measures of cognition and the behaviors that impact fuel economy, such as slowing down to brake rather than slamming on the brakes at a higher speed, maintaining optimal rpm, and managing speed and idling,” he added.

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