Cognitive training to improve driver safety/fuel economy

Nov. 1, 2008
When safety directors talk about driver training, they generally mean skills training. That is instruction on how to do things like back around a corner, shift correctly, secure a load, maintain a logbook and so on. At Israel-based CogniFit LLC (www.cognifit.com), however, training goes deeper than that; right down to the core cognitive functions that underpin all human activities. The level of cognition

When safety directors talk about driver training, they generally mean skills training. That is instruction on how to do things like back around a corner, shift correctly, secure a load, maintain a logbook and so on. At Israel-based CogniFit LLC (www.cognifit.com), 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,” explains Professor Shlomo Breznitz, CogniFit president and CTO, in a recent interview with Fleet Owner. “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, hand-eye coordination, general awareness planning, estimating time and focusing attention, to name just a few.

“Driving, in some respects, is one of the biggest challenges for people, in terms of cognitive load,” Breznitz adds. “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 says. “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.”

COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND SAFETY

To help new and experienced drivers improve the core cognitive functions required to be a safe driver, CogniFit developed a family of products called Drive-Fit, 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 says. “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 notes. “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.”

COGNITIVE FUNCTION AND DRIVING FOR FUEL ECONOMY

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,” he says, “such as slowing down to brake rather than slamming on the brakes at a higher speed.

“We would like to invite two or three U.S. fleets interested in this correlation between cognitive skills and driving for fuel efficiency to work with us,” Breznitz says. “In exchange for enabling us to give their drivers our online cognitive assessment and for anonymous data about the actual fuel efficiency of those drivers, we would offer the use of our FleetFit system at no charge.”

Fleets interested in exploring this opportunity can contact Mike Davidson at CogniFit's U.S. office by email at [email protected]

About the Author

Wendy Leavitt

Wendy Leavitt joined Fleet Owner in 1998 after serving as editor-in-chief of Trucking Technology magazine for four years.

She began her career in the trucking industry at Kenworth Truck Company in Kirkland, WA where she spent 16 years—the first five years as safety and compliance manager in the engineering department and more than a decade as the company’s manager of advertising and public relations. She has also worked as a book editor, guided authors through the self-publishing process and operated her own marketing and public relations business.

Wendy has a Masters Degree in English and Art History from Western Washington University, where, as a graduate student, she also taught writing.  

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