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Google Celebrates Invention of the Traffic Light

Today's Google doodle depicts the first electric traffic lights which were installed 101 years ago.

They are the bane of impatient motorists and are responsible for thousands of road rage incidents across the globe.

Now the humble traffic light has been honored with a Google Doodle to celebrate its 101st Anniversary on Wednesday:

The first ever traffic lights were unveiled in London in the late 19th century, and placed outside the Houses of Parliament.

Non-electric and gas-operated, police officers had to work the lights by hand in a bid to control vehicles crossing on nearby Bridge Street, Great George Street and Parliament Street.

The project was short-lived after an explosion in 1869 when a leak in gas lines passing under the device exploded, and seriously injured the police officer operating the lights.

More than thirty years later an American enjoyed greater success with some electronic lights that focused on a similar - and now internationally recognizable - system of red and green lights.

Lester Wire, a former detective in Salt Lake City, came up with the revolutionary idea in 1912, and traffic lights began springing up across the United States shortly after.

Doodle illustrator Nate Swinehart said that he did not include the yellow light outlining that the were not introduced until later to regulate the traffic more effectively.

In 1920 bells were added to traffic light systems to alert motorists when the lights were about to change - they were later replaced with the amber light now seen on all traffic light systems today.

It wasn't until 1990 that countdown timers were introduced, allowing pedestrians to judge whether there is enough time for them to cross the road before the lights turn red.

These days, traffic lights are highly sophisticated, incorporating special light symbols for bikes, trams and buses. Some also feature signals that are interruptible, giving priority to emergency vehicles via transmitters that send radio waves, infrared signals, or strobe light signals that are received by a sensor on or near the traffic lights.

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.

This article was written by James Rothwell of the Telegraph.  Click here to read in its entirety.   

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