In 1903, French chemist Edouard Benedictus dropped a beaker filled with dried cellulose nitrate. The glass broke, but it did not shatter. The cellulose nitrate kept the pieces of glass bonded together. Benedictus had invented what would later become the base for laminated safety auto glass. While laminated auto glass wouldn’t be used in automobiles until several decades later, it was becoming apparent that automobiles needed some form of glass to protect the driver’s vision on the road. It was also becoming clear that standard glass that you put in your home’s windows was not going to cut it. Regular glass shatters when broken. This was causing a major issue for early drivers because a simple crack in the windshield would cause severe injuries when the glass shattered.
In the very early days of automobiles, windshields were often sold as an accessory with the vehicle. It was considered more of a luxury to have an enclosed automobile than not. As time went on, however, the frequency of accidents increased and automakers started including auto glass as a default feature. Manufacturers like Henry Ford began putting laminated windshields into his cars and tempered glass in the side and back windows. In the 1960s, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was formed, and safety glass was made a legal requirement for all motor vehicles.