Automakers may be beating Silicon Valley with robot cars, violating the laws of disruption

With trillions of dollars potentially at stake, Silicon Valley has rushed into the latest commercial rage: to dominate personal transportation with robot cars. While the valley’s most hallowed high-tech names, the self-described industry disruptors—Apple, Google, Tesla, Uber—have attracted most of the attention, they appear to be flailing at execution, and hyping their capabilities. The names to beat, at least at this juncture, are supposedly dowdy incumbent carmakers such as GM, BMW and Volvo.

“Silicon Valley companies are finding that technological and financial disruption of the automotive industry is not straightforward,” said Raj Rajkumar, an expert on self-driving technology at Carnegie-Mellon University, who consults for GM.