Tesla CEO Elon Musk under fire in wake of autopilot crashes

FILE - In this Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, file photo, Tesla Motors Inc. CEO Elon Musk delivers a speech at the Paris Pantheon Sorbonne University as part of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. Musk, who is the chairman and largest shareholder of Tesla Motors and SolarCity, has proposed to unite the two companies. The overlap created a glaring conflict of interest that's fueling concerns about whether Musk is milking Tesla's higher market value and better brand recognition to bail out SolarCity, a company run by his cousin, Lyndon Rive. (AP Photo/Francois Mori, File)
Francois Mori, AP

Tesla's road has taken another unfortunate turn after another one of its electric cars crashed last week. The driver survived and told police the vehicle was on autopilot. This comes as the government investigates Tesla over an autopilot accident that killed a driver, reports CBS News correspondent Ben Tracy.

Tesla said it can't yet confirm whether or not the car in the latest crash was in autopilot mode and that they've tried to contact the driver three times. But this is more bad news for the automaker, which is trying to get the public and investors to buy into its plans for more hands-free driving.

The company is seeing a slew of negative headlines after a Tesla in autopilot mode collided with a truck in Florida. The driver, Joshua Brown, became the first known person to be killed in a self-driving car. Now, Fortune Magazine is criticizing Tesla's CEO Elon Musk for not telling investors about the fatality until several weeks after he and the company sold more than $2 billion worth of Tesla stock.

In a tweet, Musk said the accident "wasn't material to Tesla" and called the Fortune article "BS." The company declined our request for an interview.

"It definitely hasn't been a good couple of weeks for Tesla. These sorts of negative incidents are definitely having an impact on the stock price, on people's confidence in the cars," said Tim Stevens, editor in chief of Roadshow, CNET's auto site.

Tesla first activated the autopilot mode in its cars last year. Some Tesla fans have found other things to do while the car does the work. However, Tesla says autopilot is a safety feature meant to prevent accidents, not to allow drivers to completely check out.

When Musk showed us how he builds his cars back in 2013, he said he was most proud of Tesla's safety record.

"I'm really happy that thus far there has not been, to the best of my knowledge, any fatality in a Tesla ever and we are going to try to keep it that way as long as possible," Musk said.

That's obviously changed, but Musk says the criticism is unfair. He told Fortune that "approximately half a million people would have been saved if the Tesla autopilot was universally available. Please, take 5 minutes and do the bloody math before you write an article that misleads the public."

But Tesla has a math problem of its own. The company delivered about 1,600 fewer cars in the second quarter than it said it would. It's aiming to produce half a million vehicles by 2018 - ten times their production level for 2015.