The early twentieth-century road junction was a strange scene. According to Google the world’s largest automobile manufacturer sold over 20,000 cars a month in 1914. However, horse-drawn wagons and carts still crowded the streets, and accidents became increasingly frequent. Intersections in major cities were congested, and traffic was directed by police officers who stood in the middle of the road “waving their arms” an unenviable beat, to say the least, especially in the winter.
A solution to the problem was overdue. Gas-lit stoplights appeared in England before the turn of the century, but these had a tendency to explode.
Enter the inspiration for today’s Doodle, the electric traffic signal, which was first installed in Cleveland, Ohio on August 5th, 1914.
The first traffic lights in England were deployed in Piccadilly Circus in 1926.
Wolverhampton was the first town in Britain to introduce automated traffic lights in 1927 in Princes Square at the junction of Lichfield Street and Princess Street.
Doodler Nate Swinehart hearkens back to an earlier time with shades of black and white, and uses the background colours to make the red and green signals particularly luminous. It’s not an artistic coincidence that the cars leap forward and screech wildly to a halt, either--the yellow light wouldn’t appear for several years, and overzealous motorists had to stop on a sixpence.