The first vehicles to hit the roads were not particularly fast, but that didn’t mean that drivers couldn’t get hurt by flying stones, insects and other airborne threats, no matter how small. This lead to the introduction of the first windscreen in 1904. It was not much more than a glass pane, similar to a normal house window. It was a divided pane of glass so that when the top half got dirty the driver could fold it down. Windscreens were only offered as an extra in the early Ford model T cars.
This system changed in 1915, when Oldsmobiles were sold with the top and windscreen as standard.
As cars became more commonplace, more injuries occurred. It became typical for drivers to be injured by pieces of flying glass after an accident, or by going head first through the windscreen, this was pre safety belts and was referred to as ‘the glass necklace’.
After many accidents and pressure from the public, Henry Ford started to seek out an improved version of the windscreen. As most cars were now glass, the demand was growing and glass became hard to come by; it also became prohibitively expensive. Over time, methods did improve and by late 1919 the Ford company started using laminated glass, which over the next 10 years became a feature in all Fords.
Numerous changes were subsequently made over the years, and in 1937 the use of safety glass was made compulsory for all vehicles.
A significant breakthrough was made in 1938 when Pittsburgh Plate produced tempered glass which was significantly more shatter resistant than regular glass. Despite its added attributes, this glass (Herculite) was thinner than laminated glass and much cheaper to produce.
This windscreen took another leap forward when Studbaker produced the first curved windshield in 1947. Another 10 years on and manufacturers started adding tints to the windows, especially the top portion to reduce glare.
Nowadays the windshield is quite different, often bigger and more raked. Manufacturers also cover the windshield with a dye-film to reduce infrared rays and prevent too much heat entering the vehicle.
When it comes to windscreens, the future continues to beckon. In the not too distant future a special film cover using nanotechnology will be applied to all windscreens, eliminating the need for windscreen wipers.
No doubt the windscreen will have a few surprises for us as technology and safety methods improve. In the meantime, if you want your windows tinted or glazed, contact the local experts at Dean’s Autoglass.
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