The History of Windshields

Windshields have evolved over time but their primary purpose is just as valid today as it was when they were first introduced, to protect drivers and passengers from outside elements and flying objects. The first windshields were placed on cars in 1904. These were simply horizontally-divided pieces of plate glass. They type of glass that you would find a typical single page window in your home.  The horizontally-divided design allowed the driver to fold the windshield down to enable them to continue driving when the windshield got too dirty to see.

The use of simple plate glass was not very safe and as time progressed, innovations in the auto glass industry produced safer windshield options like safety glass. Here is an interesting snippet from the article titled, “A Clear View: History of Automotive Safety Glass” that describes how safety glass was accidentally discovered;

Two European inventors developed glass laminating, Frenchman Edouard Benedictus and Briton John C. Wood. Benedictus, an accomplished artist, writer, composer, book binder, fabric designer, and scientist, made an accidental discovery in his lab. As the story goes, one day in 1903 he dropped a beaker and his lab assistant, thinking it clean, put it back on the shelf. Later as Benedictus climbed a ladder, he bumped that shelf, once again sending the flask to the floor. It broke — but its pieces held together. Cellulose nitrate, a clear liquid plastic left in the beaker, had dried and kept the glass from breaking into shards. After experimenting further Benedictus developed safety glass, two layers of plate glass with a layer of cellulose between them, and he hoped to promote its use in automobiles.  View the original article here:

Here is a great video that talks about advancements in glass technology and windshields

(skip forward to 5 minutes, 49 seconds to see the part talking about windshields)


Americans realized there was a need for some governmental safety standards in the 1960s. Ralph Nader, a consumer advocate, exposed some of the dangers that were still inherent in windshields. As a result of his work, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was created in 1970 [source: Bowen].

Since the formation of the NHTSA, there have been some great safety improvements as a direct result of new regulations regulating all areas of vehicle safety. Some of the highlights include:

  • FMVSS 205: Regulates the strength of auto glass as it pertains to trying to keep car occupants inside the vehicle during a collision. Also regulates the transparency of auto glass.
  • FMVSS 212: Regulates the mounting standards for windshields to help keep windshields secured during accidents.
  • FMVSS 219: Regulates that no part of most passenger vehicles can penetrate the windshield more than 6 millimeters (0.24 inches) in a crash.

Oh how times have changed! With the inclusion of airbags, heads up displays, defrost elements, crash avoidance cameras, antennas, solar coatings and so on your windshield is a lot more than just a piece of glass!  

The future of windshields proves to be a changing field as well. As technology changes and the needs of consumers and and style change, so will the windshields of the future. Here is an interesting view into the future in an article titled, “Automobile Windshield“;

Windshields are also increasing in size in order to accommodate newer aerodynamic designs, and thus the use of glass is increasing relative to the total surface area of vehicles. (In fact, some models are incorporating glass roofs as well.)

Such increase in glass area, in turn, has a negative impact on comfort systems, namely air conditioners, which must be able to adjust the higher interior temperatures to a comfortable level. To avoid having to use larger air conditioning systems, new glass compositions, coated glasses, and aftermarket films are being evaluated. These include angle-selective glazings that reject high-angle sun, and optical switching films that actively or passively change transmittance properties.

Read the entire article here:

In the same way that technology has advanced everywhere else on your car that it takes an expert to even start to know how to fix it, so has the glass on your car advanced!

If only the best will do for repairs on your investment, call us at Liberty Autoglass!