There were tens of millions of vehicles recalled in the United States in 2014, and at least in the case of Takata's faulty airbag inflators, workers allegedly knew about the problem years in advance. The government wants to make it harder for automakers to hide safety lapses like these in the future and could pay whistleblowers cold hard cash for speaking out.

A bill would give workers in the auto industry, including those at suppliers and dealers, 30 percent of federal fines over $1 million, if the employees report the problem to the Departments of Transportation or Justice, according to Reuters. The entire Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee voted in support of the proposed law, and it also received support from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a lobbying group for many major automakers.

"This legislation will be a powerful tool to help ensure that problems regarding known safety defects are promptly reported to safety regulators," committee chairman Senator John Thune said to Reuters.

While this is a strong early step, the bill has a long way to go before becoming law. First, it needs to be voted on by the whole Senate, and that isn't scheduled yet, according to Reuters. If the proposal progresses past there, it moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, before possibly arriving on the President's desk.

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