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Obama administration planning to speed up development of self-driving cars

The White House will reportedly announce efforts to speed up the development of self-driving cars on Thursday, something that may be of extreme interest to Apple as it readies its own such vehicle.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will make an appearance in Detroit to talk about the Obama administration's plans, Reuters said. Google, perhaps the best-known developer of self-driving cars, has said it will particpate in the event. The company already has prototypes driving around public roads in Mountain View, Calif. and Austin, Tex., albeit with humans onboard as a backup. Apple and most others have yet to reach that step.

Detroit automakers are also likely to be involved in the announcement.

The creation of self-driving cars has been mired by the lack of a consistent legal framework. U.S. laws aren't well-equipped to address the new technology, and where regulations do exist, they can vary from state to state, making testing in some places difficult or impossible.

In December, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration head Mark Rosekind promised a "nimble, flexible" approach to creating related rules.

The first consumer-oriented self-driving vehicles are typically thought to be years out. Apple's electric car, for instance, isn't expected to arrive until at least 2019 or 2020, and even then the first model might still be human-driven.