The Origin of Traffic Lights: History and Development

The Origin of Traffic Lights: History and Development

Picture a group of people engaged in a heated conversation in a small space. In the absence of a coordinator to oversee these individuals and direct the conversation, it might quickly become a complete chaos.

No one would want to be left behind, so everyone would try to voice their opinion without listening to what the other person has to say, leaving us with nothing but random shouting and noise. Total mayhem would result from a situation like this.

Imagine the same thing happening on our roads now, except swap out the group of people for a bunch of vehicles. Driving at random, without regard for or consideration of other vehicles on the road, could cause chaos and accidents, with potentially disastrous results. Here come the traffic lights, which serve as the road’s organisers. They help to prevent accidents by regulating the flow of the growing number of vehicles on the road. Today, we’ll discuss the history of the traffic light and provide some information about how it changed over time.

The Early Days of Traffic Lights

Despite the fact that a traffic signal’s main function is to control the flow of cars, traffic signals have been around for much longer than cars themselves. In the 1800s, the concept of traffic signals was first conceived.

Moreover, the first traffic lights in London were put outside the Houses of Parliament on December 10th, 1868. J.P. Knight, a British railway engineer, put forth this model. It was put into place to regulate the flow of horse-drawn carriages through the neighbourhood and to provide a safe crossing for pedestrians.

A police officer had to manually operate the gas-powered lights with semaphore arms. The policeman would raise or lower the semaphore arms during the day to indicate to carriages whether they should move forward or stop. Red and green lights that were lighted by gas were employed at night in place of weaponry.

Green meant to move forward, and red meant to stop for carriages. Red was employed to signal halt because it stood for danger or caution, but green was found to be more comforting in most cultures and to have a strong emotional association with safety.

The Origin of Traffic Lights

The Very First Electric Traffic Lights

The world was expanding quite quickly at the beginning of the 20th century, and as industry increased, cities grew denser. An improved traffic infrastructure was also required because the development of the automobile considerably increased traffic on the highways.

An American police officer called Lester Wire first had the thought that an electric traffic signal would be possible in the year 1912. By the year 1914, Cleveland, Ohio had the world’s first electric traffic light, which was put into operation. In contrast to modern traffic signals, the first electric traffic light simply had red and green lights. It had a buzzer sound instead of a yellow light to notify the impending change in the signal.

Smart Traffic Lights

These early lights still needed someone to control them and manually switch the colours of the lights even though they were electric rather than gas-powered. Automatic traffic lights had achieved great success by the time 1920 rolled around. They functioned by switching on and off their lights at regular intervals.

The signal would be red even when there were no vehicles passing from the opposite side, which occasionally resulted in excessive waiting for automobiles. This was fixed by mounting a microphone on the signal’s pole. Then after the car arrived at the signal, it only had to honk for the light to turn green. Yet, this inevitably resulted in the issue of pointless automobile honking. The honk-sensitive lights had to be removed as a result.

The Origin of Traffic Lights

The computerised control of traffic lights

With the development of computers in the 1960s, traffic lights began to be computerised. As computers developed over time, it became possible to forecast and control city traffic using the software.

Currently, it is possible to track traffic throughout the globe, which provides information on the volume of traffic at specific times, the busiest cities, and the times when traffic is at its highest. This information allows the control of traffic lights.

Timer with Countdown

In the 1990s, the countdown timer was added to traffic lights. With the countdown clock, pedestrians can gauge their window of opportunity to cross the street before the light changes colour.

Traffic Lights in the Future

Since the number of vehicles on the road has been steadily rising each year and will do so in the future, traffic lights must advance in order to handle the increased volume of traffic. We will have connected vehicles in the future that can communicate with traffic lights and other vehicles.

Traffic lights would be able to interact with cars, allowing them to determine whether they will arrive in time for the next signal before it goes red. The signal might also advise you to hurry up in order to arrive in time for the signal. There may come a day when traffic signals inquire about the destinations of the moving vehicles and adjust their plans accordingly. Over time, traffic signals will become better. There is no question in my mind. And they’ll keep offering quicker and safer commutes for vehicles.

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(With Inputs from careerindia)