U.S. Patent Number 6,632,174 was issued on October 14, 2003, to absolutely no public fanfare. The only celebration took place far away in Nazareth in the Galilee, at a small Israeli start-up company called CogniFit, the recipient of the new patent. In the months ahead, however, U.S. fleets may also have cause for celebration, if the company's unique take on driver training lives up to its potential.
CogniFit develops computer-based programs designed to assess, train and enhance cognitive and psychomotor abilities, including the sets of abilities tied to particular tasks, such as driving. The methodology comes out of more than 20 years of scientific research and study on how the brain works and on how to use that understanding to improve performance and quality of life.
The company's program for professional drivers is called DriveFit Pro. It is not intended to replace conventional driving skills training programs, but to enhance the performance of trained drivers in much the same way that regular workouts prepare athletes to perform at their peak.
“Studies have documented human behavior as a primary cause in over half of road accidents examined,” notes Yossi Mazel, CogniFit vice president marketing. “Following a job analysis, we identified twelve cognitive and psychological characteristics as the most important for safe driving: reaction time; risk-taking; obeying traffic regulations; short-term memory; assessment of time, distance and speed; focus/concentration; hand-eye coordination; confidence level; divided attention; width of field of vision; changing plans/inhibitions, and visual scanning. DriveFit Pro analyzes the individual profile of a professional driver in these areas and provides him or her with a training program to reinforce the stronger capabilities and improve weaker areas.”
DriveFit Pro customers, such as truck fleet managers, receive a master CD to install on a computer at their own facility, Mazel explains. Each driver taking the 30-minute initial assessment receives a unique user code. Drivers see their results on the screen after they are scored and processed by CogniFit.
Based upon the results of the assessments, drivers begin a series of 24 customized, interactive lessons taken on a PC. Each lesson takes about 20 minutes to complete, notes Mazel. A session is recommended every 48 hours, for a total of eight hours of training over a six-week period. Fleet managers can also see the cumulative results for all their company's drivers, priority ranked according to their need for training, he adds.
The company's unique system and the results it is achieving are already winning support from driver training organizations around the globe. CogniFit announced that it had recently signed contracts valued at $5 million to $8 million in Canada, England, France and Finland.
The most recent contract was with Young Drivers - Canada (http://yd.com) part of Young Drivers International, and owned by Ford Motor Co. According to Mazel, the new contract for FleetFit (for drivers of company cars) was signed following the success achieved with its first product, DriveFit for new drivers, which Young Drivers - Canada began using a year ago. Other customers include Young Drivers - Finland, Codes of Rousseau of France and the British School of Motoring, one of the largest driving schools in the world.
As it prepares to enter the U.S. marketplace, CogniFit is seeking opportunities to partner with companies and organizations that already offer risk management, driver screening or practical driver training, as they are currently doing in other countries. More information is available at www.cognifit.com.