Car turn signals are the stick-like device found by the side of your steering wheel. Every car is equipped with turn signal lights on all four corners which turn on whenever the stick is moved upward or downward.
Along with the discovery of automotive, each automotive device also had a history, car turn signals being one. Here, CarSwitch, a hub to sell any cars, brings you the true history of making this revolutionary device.
The Mechanical Signaling of Florence-1914
Before car turn signals were invented the driver had to use their hands to signal for turns. Left arm straight out meant turning left while bent with elbow outwards meant turning right. It was considered quite a dance, when the Americans brought the idea of creating a device to understand the art of the intended movement of the vehicles.
Percy Douglas Hamilton became the first one to apply for a patent for this invention, where he aimed to form lights in the shape of hands to indicate vehicle movements. The motivation behind such a design was to engage the public which was used to hand signaling.
However, it was Florence Lawrence to become the first person to invent a mechanical signaling arm in 1914. Though she failed to patent, she created a system through which a sign would come up on the rear bumper when a button was pushed to indicate which way the driver would turn.
Modern Turn Signals-1920 to 1925
Further in 1920, the flashing turn signals were introduced in the market by the Protex Safety Signal Company. However, the patent for creating the modern turn signal in 1925 was granted to Edgar A. Waltz Jr. This car signal was heavily marketed to car manufacturers, however, was not paid heed to and the patent expired in fourteen years.
One-Off Signal Car Turn Signal-1929
In competition to this, handmade one-off signals were made by Oscar J. Simler in 1929. It was built in a four-lobed shape with lenses for lights that indicated with tags of slow, stop, left and right.
Europe used the trafficators in place of the mechanical car turn signal in America. The trafficators were the semaphore indicators, a set of mechanical arms that swung out horizontally. They used electromagnetic force to raise the arm which was generally mounted on top of the door pillars. Once it was signaled “on”, a small bulb would light up in the lens area and when signaled “off” it would fold back inward towards the door pillar.
These were not primarily a built-in feature until the Germans added it to their manufacturers in Europe. The Model A trafficators were added to both left and right side models in which the arm was mounted to the center of the dashboard and was operated with a toggle switch.
Electric Motor Drive
Oscar J Simler’s invention was further advanced when electric motor drive was invented in which for stop and slow signal a switch in the brake pedal activated hands that used to sing on both sides of the car while the clutch pedal controlled the left and right turn signals. Trafficators soon became obsolete with further advancement in the world of car turn signals.
Flash Signals-1939 to 1940
Soon after, flash signals became a built-in feature for cars. It gained more popularity in 1939 with the invention of the flash way directional signal. In this signal the flash only worked on the rear lights operated from the switch on the handi shift column. In 1940, this further advanced when flashing was added to front lights as well. It also added a self cancellation feature which increased its popularity in brands like Cadillac and LaSalle.
After the Second World War, this system enhanced further with turn signals and turn signal levers being mounted to the left side of the steering. This became a common manufacturing choice and was found in almost every car.
The sixties marked a further advancement into functioning of the rear and front lights through a sequence of three sets of bulbs. Light emitting diodes were added to the market and the latest form of car turn signals were formed.
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