For more than a year, General Motors (NYSE:GM) has tantalized investors with plans to build its future around self-driving cars.

It has regularly announced big investments and progress reports, but the company has kept its prototype vehicles largely under wraps — until now.

On Thursday, G.M. will demonstrate its growing fleet of computer-operated, battery-powered Chevrolet Bolts in San Francisco to dozens of investment analysts, who are eager to evaluate the automaker’s advanced test vehicles.

The event represents a critical step for G.M. as it seeks to establish leadership in the hotly contested race to bring driverless cars to market.

And although G.M. has been reluctant to show off the cars it has developed through a subsidiary, Cruise Automation, the company now wants to prove that self-driving models are getting closer to general use.

“Everything we are doing is geared to speed,” G.M.’s president, Daniel Ammann, told journalists at an event showcasing the cars on Tuesday.

To emphasize the company’s progress, Mr. Ammann said the cars would be ready for consumer applications in “quarters, not years.”

Meeting that goal would probably give G.M., the nation’s largest automaker, a jump on other companies developing self-driving models.

Industry analysts say self-driving cars could generate billions of dollars in additional revenue and profit for automakers and technology companies, primarily by selling or leasing them to ride-hailing services, taxi fleets and delivery companies.

For G.M., the self-driving cars program is a cornerstone to long-term growth that is not dependent on simply selling vehicles to individual drivers.

“G.M. has changed the narrative of the company’s future,” Adam Jonas, a Morgan Stanley analyst, said in a research report on Tuesday.

Other automakers, such as Ford Motor, Volkswagen and Toyota, are pushing to accelerate their own electric and self-driving car programs.

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