[Infographic] Clear Progression: The History of Windshields and Glass in Our Vehicles

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Did you know that windshields were optional for the first few early years of automotive manufacturing?  Windshields are, of course, an important safety feature in any vehicle, and students in automotive school might be interested in knowing what they’re made of, and how they work. They were once, however, very different from the windshields and glass used in automotive production today.

The early 20th century saw the rise of popular cars such as the Ford Model-T and the Oldsmobile, but it wasn’t until later that windshields began to be included in the manufacturing process as less of an option and more as a necessity to ensure motorist safety. Inventions and innovations throughout the century helped introduce new technology like safety glass, pop-out windshields, and polyvinyl butyral, with windshields and safety glass still continuing to be improved on today. In fact, there may still be a few surprises in store after your automotive courses.

Want to learn more about the evolution of glass in the automotive world? Check out our infographic below to find out some exciting facts!

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[Infographic] Clear Progression: The History of Windshields and Glass in Our Vehicles

5 Facts about the First Windshields

  1. Created to protect passengers from dust and debris
  2. Were pieces of plate glass divided horizontally
  3. As protective as a house window
  4. An optional safety feature until 1915
  5. Oldsmobile was the first company to include windshields

Did you know? It used to cost $100 to add a windshield, headlights, and speedometer to the Ford Model-T

A Timeline of the Creation of Safety Glass

  • 1903: A lab accident leads to the creation of a safety glass prototype by Eduoard Benedictus
  • 1910: Benedictus patents Triplex, two panes of glass held together by a layer of gelatin
  • 1920: Laminate glass is adopted as a safety feature for windshields
  • 1930s: Polyvinyl butyral is introduced to strengthen laminated glass
  • 1940s: Safety glass is used in all car windows except the rear
  • 1950s: Tempered glass is included in front and rear window production
  • 1956: Float glass is created, which improves glass quality and clarity

Did you know? A quarter of all float glass is used in car manufacturing

Understanding the Different Types of Safety Glass

Tempered glass

  • Created by a heating and rapid cooling process
  • Improves glass strength by four to five times
  • Commonly used for passenger windows
  • Designed to shatter into small pieces
  • Optimized for typical driving use
Laminated glass can block approximately 99% of UV light transmission


Laminated glass

  • Created by bonding layers of glass through pressure and heat
  • Uses polyvinyl butyral resin to create multi-layered protection
  • Commonly used for front and rear windshields
  • Designed to bend and flex before shattering
  • Increases defense against flying projectiles

Did you know? A windshield contributes to 30% of a car’s structural strength

The Evolution of Windshields in Automotive Design

  • 1940s: Auto manufacturers begin using large, single piece windshields
  • 1948: Tucker automobile introduces “pop-out” windshields
  • 1950s: Panoramic curved windshields boost visibility
  • 1971: The Motor Vehicle Safety Act sets safety standards in Canada
  • 1990s: Dyed hybrid film is introduced to absorb heat and repel sun rays

5 Future Technologies for Safety Glass and Windshields

  1. Nanotechnology could allow smart glass to better control heat and light
  2. Smart windshields are testing vehicle-to-vehicle technology
  3. Embedded displays could use projected 3-D images to alert drivers of safety issues
  4. Windshield-mounted sensors could help improve accident avoidance response
  5. Specialized water-repellant glass could replace wiper blades











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