When automotive manufacturers began including glass windshields in their vehicles to protect drivers and passengers, many believed that the idea was revolutionary. The addition of glass would protect the driver from debris or shrapnel on the road and attribute to the overall safety and comfort for both the driver and passenger. Shortly after the installation of auto glass, many people then soon realized that the added protection did more harm than good. The glass material was similar to the glass used for house windows; lying flat across the front of the car without any curvature that we are accustomed to today. There was the risk of the glass shattering and causing further injury to the driver if the carriage was to crash or be involved in an accident.
When modern car windows are hit by objects, the glass does not shatter because of how the glass is laminated with a thin clear plastic film between 2 or more pieces of glass. The film keeps the glass from shattering and falling apart when being hit and providing overall protection to the driver.
The person who first developed safety glass was a French scientist by the name of Edouard Benedictus. In 1903, Edouard came up with the idea of creating safety glass after an incident where he accidently broke a glass flask. Edouard noticed how the flask stayed in once piece instead of shattering. The reason for that was due to the cellulose nitrate that the glass was made from. Around the same time that Edouard made the discovery, there was a report that stated how car drivers were being injured by the shattering of glass windshields at the point of impact when involved in an automotive accident. Soon after Edouard came up with the idea of using the same material in the broken flask to create safety glass in automotive vehicles. Edouard called the product triplex. Auto manufacturing companies did not adopt the new safety glass because of the added cost to the manufacturing the car.
Safety glass reappeared during World War I when manufacturers began to use the material in eyepieces found in gas masks. Creating eye pieces out of the safety glass was much easier because of the smaller size. Automobile makers saw how well the safety glass worked for the gas mask eyepieces that they began to consider using the safety glass in their vehicles.
Early Use in Cars
Safety glass was first used in cars in 1927. In 1928 Pittsburgh Plate Glass (PPG) introduced its version of safety glass and called it Duplate. As the design of safety glass improved, the more popular it became. Safety glass became mainstream in every car in the U.S. by 1966. Now safety glass is standard on every automotive vehicle.