The traffic light is the subject of Google’s Doodle today, Aug. 5, 2015 – the 101st anniversary of the invention.

Traffic Light Google Doodle

In Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 5, 1914, the first electric stoplight system was established. Ohio inventor J.B. Hoge got the patent for the invention, which featured four pairs of red and green lights that were affixed to opposite sides of a post. The lights were manually operated from a nearby control booth.

“[It] takes the traffic officer out of the center of the street and places him at a corner of the sidewalk and at an elevation from which he can see over the heads of the crowd,” wrote Cleveland director of public safety in 1915.

Before the traffic light system as we know it was born, the roads were growing increasingly chaotic. When the roads were only shared by horses, carriages, carts and pedestrians – though they were already considerably dangerous – they were significantly less so before the automobile was introduced in the 1900s. As a result of the speedy transportation, crashes and deaths from crashes were on the rise.

By 1920, the yellow light was introduced as well as linked circuits that allowed lights at different intersection to automatically change at the same time.

In addition to the traffic light, there were other practical implementations devised to make cars on the road a safer reality. Traffic circles, lane-dividing lines, the concept of a hard left turn, “No Left Turn” signs and pedestrian crosswalks were all inventions of the early automobile age.


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