In 1953, Burnard W. Byford patented an automotive cup holder that could be wedged between seat cushions. In 1956, Clyde W. Morgan patented the earliest version of the modern cup holder: a refreshment tray designed to be installed on the instrument panel.
The first vehicle with built-in cup holders was the 1955 Chevy, which contained shallow indentations on the glove compartment door. Throughout the 1980s, several manufacturers produced cars with built-in cup holders, but they were not a standard feature.
The turning point came in 1994, when 79-year-old Stella Liebeck sued McDonalds after spilling a cup of scalding hot coffee on herself. Liebeck ended up with third-degree burns from the spill, which occurred inside a car with no place to secure her beverage. This incident prompted the automobile industry to recognize the value of functional, built-in cup holders as a standard feature on every car.