Even though the gas-powered car is a relatively new innovation, it has become an American staple. Here is the story behind the advent and safety of one very important car part: the windshield.
The First Cars
In 1885, German engineer Karl Friedrich Benz patented the first gasoline-run automobile. He found success in the automobile industry and went on to form the Mercedes-Benz Corporation, but he failed to add one important part to his vehicles: the windshield.
Gasoline-powered vehicles steadily gained in popularity and affordability, but not until 1904 did manufacturers begin installing windshields. These first windshields were poorly-built, double-sided contraptions but they allowed the driver to fold down the outer layer when the shield dirtied over the course of the drive. Manufacturers improved on this with a windshield constructed from plate glass, which is a solid, thick sheet made from grinding and smoothing liquid glass. Unfortunately, plate glass is very brittle; in car collisions, the windshield would easily break into large, sharp glass shards that caused serious injuries when catapulted into the car’s interior. Also, without seatbelts, car occupants risked severe injury when thrown through the windshield.
These early car manufacturers, like Ford and Reo, offered windshields as an “upgrade.” In 1915, Oldsmobile was the first manufacturer to include windshields in all from-the-shop vehicles. Over the course of the 1900s, manufacturers experimented with various materials, like laminated glass and tempered glass, and over the course of the 1900s, the resilience and safety of windshields continued to improve.
The Introduction of Safety Regulations
By the 1950s, cars were an integral part of the American lifestyle, but safety standards lagged. The United Nations Forum for Harmonization of Vehicle Regulation enacted the “1958 Agreement,” which set forth technical specifications for the uniform regulation of vehicles, including windshield standards. Even though a part of the United Nations, the United States chose not to enact the 1958 Agreement and vehicles remained largely unregulated in America.
As vehicles grew more accessible to the general public, and as speeds increased and the sheer number of cars on the roads multiplied, accidents became more common and more severe. In the 1965, American lawyer and consumer activist Ralph Nader released “Unsafe at Any Speed,” an extensively-researched book that revealed to the public traffic accident statistics and dangers of existing vehicles. Nader’s book also served as a call to action for Congress to step in and require vehicle manufacturers to include safety features in all vehicles.
Nader’s campaign proved successful and, in 1970, Congress created the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which researches and regulates traffic and vehicle safety. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards also began enforcing minimum safety requirements. One example, dubbed “(FMVSS) 212/208,” provides minimal windshield retention standards and testing provisions for head-on car collisions.
Today, windshields, like those from A1 Auto Glass, are safer than ever before. This is in part because of manufacturers’ continued commitment to increasing windshield technologies, and the government’s efforts to regulate windshield quality and improve consumer safety conditions.


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