The Evolution of Auto Glass – A Century of Progress

Believe it or not, the glass in your automobile is not that old of a concept. While glass seems simple enough, the augmented types of glass that are commonly found in windshields and other forms of auto glass took a lot of research and development in order to get where they are today. Many of the features that auto glass now possesses seems fairly mundane or unnoticeable, such as the way it shatters upon impact to prevent abrasions and the reinforcement that it offers the entire vehicle in the event of a rollover. These developments have played a crucial role in augmenting road safety and provided added comfort to automobile owners.

Exactly how much has occurred over the past one hundred years? From the beginnings of auto glass as a simple wind deflection to the modern performance windshields and auto glass we enjoy today, there have been quite a few resounding advancements and changes in the industry. Regulation, science, and technology have all created the conditions that have allowed this seemingly simple aspect of our vehicles to become a powerhouse of convenience and safety for those who need it most. In the following article, we will discuss the major advancements and changes in the industry throughout the past one hundred years so that you can know more about how this simple component became what it is today.

Humble Beginnings

In the early 20th century, the first uses of glass in automobiles were found in horse-drawn carriages that used the glass as a way to protect passengers from the wind. It was at this time that the term “windshield” was first coined. Unfortunately, the glass used in these buggies was the same as the glass used in windows and other applications. While the glass functioned well for blocking the wind, it proved to be hazardous whenever there was a wreck or accident. The same type of glass would be used in the first automobiles until an astounding discovery made around the same time was finally put to industrial use.

In 1903, a French chemist inadvertently discovered how to make shatter-resistant glass when he dropped a flask that was filled with a coated film of collodion. The glass flask cracked but did not shatter, retaining its original shape and avoiding the usual mess that comes with traditional glass. Some twenty years later, automobile manufacturers began to use this in auto glass applications after a series of otherwise minor accidents caused grave injury and death to passengers and drivers as a result of shattered glass.

Tempered Glass and PVB

As early as the 1920s, PVB was introduced as a way to help prevent the puncturing of the windshield and reduce shattering. Its effects are somewhat minimal – certainly not the type of resistance offered by modern windshields and auto glass. Nevertheless, this offered drivers and passengers increased protection and helped prevent the glass from shattering all over the interior of a vehicle in the event of an accident.

It would be nearly another twenty years before the first instances of tempered glass made it into automobiles. Around 1938, this type of glass became popular in the side and back windows of automobiles as a way to provide extra durability and protection. The process of creating tempered glass is relatively simple and requires a series of rapid heating and cooling phases in order to give it its strength. Both the exterior and interior strength of the glass is augmented as a result of this process.


Beginning in the 1960s, automobile manufacturers and the federal government began to realize that additional safety features needed to be implemented in order to ensure maximum safety while on the roads. In 1970, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was formed to oversee these changes. Some of the more substantial reforms that hit the auto glass industry during the past forty years include windshield mounting protocols and standards, automotive window transparency, and roof integrity measures to ensure durability in the event of a rollover.

Modern Conveniences

In recent decades, we have seen an ever-increasing series of features that are now available with any piece of auto glass. For starters, almost every vehicle made within the past thirty years has some form of UV tinting protection included to help block the damaging effects that UV rays can have on the skin. In addition to this, aftermarket tinting options now exist that allow users to block even more light from the interior of the cabin. Windshield wipers were developed several decades ago, but are still a convenience that many of the first automobile owners never had. A variety of different accessories have also been made for auto glass applications, such as window vents that let fresh air in while blocking rain and other unwanted elements from the cabin.


As we look back on one century of auto glass revolutions and advancements, it is hard to believe just how far we’ve come. In the past of a lifetime for some, we have seen multiple safety and convenience features added to auto glass and windshields that make your journeys both safer and more comfortable. In the future, there is no doubt that auto glass will continue to be revolutionized as our vehicles continue to adapt to their environments.