According to Sir James Dyson, one of the reasons that the British are so good at inventing things is because we live on an island, separating us from the rest of Europe and giving us our own challenges. Whatever the reason is, it is clear that Britain has been home to well over its fair share of ingenious inventors. To commemorate some of the lesser known inventors that have come from this little island, we’ll be starting our series on the best of British inventions with today’s post on one of the best road safety tools ever to be used: cat’s eyes.

The Invention

The story of the invention of cat’s eyes goes something like this: a man called Percy Shaw, who used to drive a lot at night, used the polished steel strips of the tram-lines to make sure that he stayed on the road and on the correct side. When these tram lines were removed, Shaw found that navigating the dark roads was a much harder task than before.

One night while driving home, Percy Shaw saw his car headlights reflected in the eyes of a cat that was sitting by the road, and he then had a Eureka moment. In March 1935, Shaw founded Reflecting Roadstuds Limited, and began to manufacture these cat’s eyes. During the blackout of WWII, when vehicle headlights were fitted with covers to direct their beams downwards, the value of Shaw’s invention was really seen and it was popularised throughout the UK.

Cat’s Eyes Now

Even now, cat’s eyes are still used on a lot of roads in the UK and around the world. The design has been changed slightly to make the device more durable to the vehicles that regularly drive right over them. Cat’s eyes are now set in rubber domes that are mounted in an iron housing. When the device is driven over, the rubber dome simply sinks down below the surface of the road. A clever little feature of cat’s eyes is a fixed rubber wiper that cleans the surface of the reflectors every time the rubber casing dips down.

Cat’s Eyes In The Future

Like with all technology, innovation has not stopped for cat’s eyes. Several inventions have built on Shaw’s idea to create even better inventions. A British company called Astucia developed a new version of cat’s eyes that incorporated a tiny speed camera. Labelled “intelligent roadstuds”, the device was tested on the M8 in Scotland, but there are no plans to implement this technology anywhere around the world.

Here at Airedale Springs, we have a passion for innovation and technology, and that’s how we’ve become leading providers of a number of different spring products; including tension springs. If you would like any more information about the products that we can provide, take a look at our website or contact us and a member of our staff will be happy to help.