DETROIT—The Obama administration on Thursday proposed a 10-year, $4 billion push to encourage the development of self-driving cars, hoping to one day eliminate roadway deaths altogether.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration regulators said they would seek unified national regulations on self-driving cars. They will also encourage automakers to claim an exemption to safety standards allowing companies to test new technology on a fleet of up to 2,500 vehicles for up to two years.

The agency also plans to work with state governments and the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators within six months to develop cohesive state regulations for autonomous vehicles.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the president’s 2017 budget proposal include $4 billion over 10 years for pilot projects, including a program to test self-driving cars on technologically connected roads.

The auto industry has been pressing the U.S. government to step in and create regulations for self-driving cars to avoid a patchwork of laws that is already forming from state to state.

Among the key questions are: Who accepts liability when a self-driving car crashes, how will insurance policies be regulated, which technologies will be legal and what type of on-road testing will be allowed?

Foxx said in a statement that the government wants to use every tool available under current regulations to speed up automakers’ efforts to test self-driving cars.

Foxx and NHTSA administrator Mark Rosekind have said their goal is to one day have no deaths attributable to car accidents.

They were set to unveil the self-driving car push on the floor of the Detroit auto show Thursday afternoon, flanked by representatives from Google, Delphi, General Motors, Fiat Chrysler Automobiles, Ford, Tesla Motors and Volvo, all of which have autonomous vehicle technologies in the works.

The initiative comes after two years dominated by record recalls and fines that have elevated tension between regulators and automakers.

But buzz about autonomous cars dominated discussions at the North American International Auto Show. Automakers say partially self-driving cars are months to years away, while completely self-driving cars could be anywhere from a few years to a few decades away.

Right now, some states, like Nevada, have laws that are designed to encourage the testing of autonomous vehicles that are different from the laws in other states.

“The goal is to offer a path to consistent policies on autonomous vehicles,” Foxx said in a statement.