The Neuropsychophysics of Competitive Driving

It is a popular belief that racing drivers possess extraordinary attributes combining hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and courage, whereas literature specific to competitive driving emphasizes the overlapping concepts of a driver’s mechanical sympathy and reliable reporting of functions to his/her crew.  Mechanical sympathy refers to a driver’s ability to feel fine operations of the vehicle that include aberrations in function (such as changes in acceleration, braking rates, or vibration).  Perhaps the most important skill within mechanical sympathy is traction sensing: an ability to determine when the limits of adhesion are being exceeded at each wheel.  High skill in traction sensing allows a driver to ride an ever-changing edge of balance between loss of time and loss of grip.

All of the attributes mentioned above are measurable aspects of human performance. 

Neuropsychophysics is the study of brain/behavior relationships in our perception of the physical world.  This area of neuroscience has developed numerous testing methods for behavioral performance factors, and these methods are already applied in clinical settings (for instance, after recovery from concussion or stroke) to assess the adequacy of an individual’s cognition for the task of driving.  Drive Science applies neuropsychophysical testing methods in order to assess competitive drivers at multiple levels of the profession. Testing also determines how a successful racing driver differs from the man on the street, and what cognitive/kinesthetic skills separate the potential champion from the pack.


Much of our perception of the physical world is obtained through kinesthetic data received from our sense of touch (including proprioception, or the perception of movement and spatial orientation from sensors within the body) and from the visual system.  These sources of information allow us to interpret information and decide how to act upon it.


Spica Protocol for Evaluation of Exceptional Drivers (“S P E E D”)

At the practical level, performance factors pertinent to competitive driving fit into two categories:  Kinesthetics (sensing the physical world) and Cognition (interpreting sensations and executing a plan of behavioral output).  Considering the neuropsychophysical domains involved, Drive Science has developed a test battery to assess the skills of competitive drivers: the Spica Protocol for Evaluation of Exceptional Drivers (SPEED).  The SPEED examination is comprised of the following:


Motor racing teams at the professional level devote innumerable resources to collecting data on the operations of the competitive automobiles.  Drive Science works to assist driver selection and driver development programs through scientific laboratory procedures that measure human performance factors central to automotive competition.

“Ferrari cars win races, Ferrari drivers lose races…”

 - Enzo Ferrari

For more information on the SPEED examination and planned studies, please contact us:

220 Fort Sanders West Boulevard

Medical Office Building 2, Suite 300

Knoxville, Tennessee    37922

Tel: 865.531.9088