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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Google doodle celebrating 100th anniversary of Traffic light !

Life on a fast lane is not all that easy – everyday thousands of vehicle pass through the OMR [aka IT corridor] Chennai – signals at Tidel Park, SRP Tools, Thuraipakkam choke – people curse and swear and many of them try to beat and outsmart others – at signals, it is a commonsight – vehicles jumping signals and causing commotion. To many, be it on OMR or any other road,  the sight of a Police man is a deterrent – not the traffic signals. 

They work elsewhere across Globe, in fact for more than a century now – for today [5th Aug] marks the  anniversary  of the device that was installed in Cleveland, Ohio,  at the corner of 105th and Euclid, way back in 1914.The lights offered respite to policemen who had previously been forced to direct cars and horse-drawn wagons in the middle of crowded highways, even in the throes of a midwestern winter.  The animated Google doodle of the day,  shows cars with the letters spelling "G-O-O-G-L-E" halting at a red traffic light and then rushing past it as it turns green.

Traffic lights, also known as traffic signals, traffic lamps, traffic semaphore, signal lights, stop lights – all known technically as traffic control signals,  are signalling devices positioned at road intersections, pedestrian crossings and other locations to control conflicting flows of traffic. The first manually operated gas-lit traffic light was installed in 1868 in London, though it was short-lived due to explosion. The first safe, automatic electric traffic lights were installed in the United States starting in the late 1890s.  Traffic lights alternate the right of way accorded to road users by displaying lights of a standard color (red, yellow, and green) following a universal color code. In the typical sequence of color phases:  Green allows traffic to proceed; Yellow [amber] warns that signals is about to change ! [not to move faster before it becomes red or having turned red just, as we see in most places !!];  the Red signal prohibits traffic from proceeding. 

The first non-electric, gaslit traffic light installed outside the Parliament in London – did not last long, as it exploded in a couple of months due to a leak in a gas line.  With doubts about its safety, the concept was abandoned until electric signals became available.The first electric traffic light was developed in 1912 by Lester Wire, a policeman in Salt Lake City, Utah, who also used red-green lights.On 5 August 1914, the American Traffic Signal Company installed a traffic signal system on the corner of East 105th Street and Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.It had two colors, red and green, and a buzzer, based on the design of James Hoge, to provide a warning for color changes. The design by James Hoge allowed police and fire stations to control the signals in case of emergency.

Los Angeles installed its first automated traffic signals in October 1920 at five locations on Broadway. The first interconnected traffic signal system was installed in Salt Lake City in 1917, with six connected intersections controlled simultaneously from a manual switch.  Countdown timers on traffic lights were introduced in the 1990s. Timers are useful for pedestrians, to plan whether there is enough time to cross the intersection before the end of the walk phase, and for drivers, to know the amount of time before the light turns green.

Now the humble traffic light has been honoured with a Google Doodle to celebrate its 100th Anniversary on Wednesday.

Perhaps the most impressive traffic light specimen ever to be unleashed on the world's streets was the Traffic Light Tree, created by French sculptor Pierre Vivant in 1998.The imposing eight-metre tall tree consists of 75 sets of lights and has become a favourite spot for tourists in London.While most countries have become dependent on traffic lights over the decades, some places are happy to do without them. In Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, a huge intersection runs smoothly without a single traffic light !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

5th Aug 2015.

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