Who Invented Traffic Lights

trafficlightsThey may annoy people with their ‘sudden’ changes, and journey times may sometimes be dependant on them ‘staying green’, but the truth is that deep down, everyone knows that traffic lights are a key tool in keeping roads as safe as possible, and keeping control against potential traffic chaos. But who was it that first came up with the idea of lights to tell us when we need to stop our vehicles?

It may be a surprise to some, but traffic lights have actually been in use before cars were even invented. In times when people used horses and wagons, amongst other methods of transportation, there was still a need for organisation, even in those more basic years of road travel. In 1868 in London (England), traffic enforcers managed to find a basic, yet effective device: a lantern with two different lights: one red and one green, with a policeman on hand to turn the lights over at regular intervals with a lever.

This method was useful, but the lights themselves were a danger, with some of the lanterns exploding due to being used for prolonged and alternating periods. An updated and safer version / design of the traffic light was first invented, and put to use, in 1920, by American traffic police officer William L. Potts, based in the city of Detroit. He used automated railroad signals as the inspiration for his design, to be used on four-way streets. A new colour, amber (yellow), was used in the middle of red and green (standing for ‘stop’, ‘caution’, and ‘go’).

The design would start to take off, first in the rest of Detroit, and then rapidly to the point where traffic lights are the norm on almost all areas of the world’s roads that require them. Below is an video demonstrating how these traffic lights work, as well as a bonus clip featuring classic comedy character Mr. Bean, who demonstrates exactly what not to do when faced with a red light…

Traffic Lights – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Hybrid Car?

800px-HondaInsightThe hybrid car seems to be a fairly recent innovation, generally combining the environmentally-friendly aspects of electricity as a fuel, and the more reliable performance of petrol. It would be a surprise to many to learn, however, that the idea of combining different fuel methods for a vehicle was not a modern conception, and that the theory applied today (to great relief against environmental and economic issues) dates back before the modern car itself was invented.

The story of the hybrid dates back to 1665, when Ferdinand Verbiest, a priest and astronomer, planned to designing a ‘four-wheeled, self-moving wagon, powered by steam’. This has only been a historical claim, though, and no official records state if it ever got past the planning stage. The first working version was conceived by Frenchman Nicholas Cugnot, in the year 1769, and though his design worked, it was incapable of going faster then 6mph, and there was not enough fuel space for a long journey. The following centry saw two more efforts, this time using new power source electricity, but the designs of both Robert Anderson (1839, lack of battery charge), and Sir David Salomon (1870, speed and range) were flawed.

It would be the mid-20th century when a valid and efficiant product was released, when car company Motorola teamed up with American electrical engineer Victor Wouk to try and find a road product to combat the growing air pollution problem caused by petrol car emissions. In 1974, after a 12-year process a prototype was built, combining the large size of a petrol/gas-powered engine with the low-emission electric-powering method, fitted to what looks like a regular car. Wouk would be credited with the invention of the hybrid car, and would go on in an attempt to sell his concept to manufacturers.

After further developments, the 1990’s saw hybrids become commercially available, and cars such as the Toyota Prius are now synonymous with its popularity today, with many people now looking to ‘go green’, now there is a range of suitable and safe vehicles ready to buy. Below is a video clip demonstrating how hybrid cars function:

Hybrid Cars – Wikipedia

Who Invented The Segway

Segway_Polizei_4The Segway is one of the most innovative methods of transportation developed in recent years, but who was it that came up with this odd, self-balancing, and expensive alternative to walking?

The patent of the Segway design and machine will agknowlege American Dean Kamen as its inventor. The two wheeled machine was created by Kamen in 2001 and sales began around a year afterwards. The Segway was also known as Ginger and IT during its development stage. Ginger was in fact a product of the IBOT wheelchair technology that Kamen was working on. The Ginger was developed while Kamen was at the University of Plymouth.

Now being sold as a well-known device around the world, for those that can afford it, the Segway has developed products for more specific uses, such as security / police work, playing golf, and riding over difficult terrain. The company estimates that over 50,000 Segway units (all models) had been sold since the initial release.

Despite criticisms of its nature and price, the Segway has been seen as a marketable device, even if to some it is just for the novelty factor, but it is clear that the creators do take their product seriously, as seen by this extended advertisement:

Segway – Wikipedia