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The Obama administration is about to announce a plan for self-driving cars

The new proposal will be unveiled Thursday

Top officials in the Obama administration will announce a plan on Thursday to speed the development of self-driving cars, according to Reuters. Mark Rosekind, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, told reporters that Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will unveil the proposal at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit tomorrow.

The plan could have a galvanizing effect on the nascent self-driving vehicle industry. Currently, several automakers and technology companies are working on autonomous vehicles, with most experts predicting that self-driving cars will begin to appear on the roads in large numbers as soon as 2020.

A plan from Washington could prevent a patchwork of state rules

Foxx has been signaling for months his intention to set policies for self-driving cars before President Barack Obama leaves office at the end of 2016. In a recent interview with Recode, Foxx said, "On these types of questions, we as an agency should produce guidance on how we are going to approach this technology — and how we want the industry to approach it. And that guidance is being worked on as we speak. I expect in the next days and weeks I'll be able to make some announcement about that."

There is no regulatory framework for self-driving cars in the US right now. States are beginning to explore their own rules, but a clear set of guidance from Washington could prevent a patchwork of regulations from settling in across the country. Companies engaged in development and production of self-driving technology have said they are afraid of legal ramifications if an accident or mishap occurs.