american culture

New York Auto Show canceled for 2020, pushed to spring 2021

Organizers of the New York International Auto Show, once hoping to hold the rescheduled event to August, have decided to scrap the entire year. The show has been officially canceled for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers announced Friday.

The next show will take place April 2 to April 11, 2021. Press days will be March 31 and April 1.

The New York Auto Show, which is organized by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, was scheduled to begin April 10 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York City. The event was rescheduled for late August after COVID-19 swept into Europe and North America.

The Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, the traditional location for the show, was set up as a field hospital for COVID-19 cases. The center doesn’t have any patients. However, it is still set up as an active hospital and is in standby mode for the foreseeable future, according to organizers.

Mark Schienberg, president of the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, noted that “immense planning” is needed for automakers and their exhibit partners to construct a show.

“Because of the uncertainty caused by the virus, we feel it would not be prudent to continue with the 2020 Show and instead are preparing for an even greater 2021,” Schienberg said.

“As representatives of automobile retailers, we know when this crisis passes there will be enormous pent-up demand for new vehicles in this region and across the country,” he added. “We also know how important the Show is for consumers navigating the process.”

Inside Harley Davidson’s EV shift with a ride on its LiveWire

Harley-Davidson will release its first production electric motorcycle in September, the LiveWire.

Yes, the American symbol for internal combustion, chrome and steel is going all in on two-wheeled EVs.

Founded in Milwaukee in 1903, Harley Davidson opened a Silicon Valley office in 2018 with plans to add a future line-up of electric vehicles—from motorcycles to bicycles to scooters.

With these moves HD joins a list of established transportation companies that are redefining themselves in the transformation of global mobility.

TechCrunch talked to the company’s senior management on the EV pivot and got a chance to test the  LiveWire on New York’s Formula E race track. 

The battery powered Harley will do 0-60 mph in 3 seconds, 110 mph, and charge to 100 percent in 60 minutes for a $29,799 MSRP.

The motorcycle’s 15.5kWh battery and magnet motor produce 105 horsepower and 86 ft-lbs of torque for a city range of 146 miles (and 95 for combined city/highway riding).

Harley Davidson Livewire static 1

In contrast to some of Harley’s minimalist gas motorcycles, the company teched out the LiveWire. The e-moto has five processors to manage performance and app-based connectivity, according to HD’s Chief Engineer for EV Technology, Sean Stanley.

The LiveWire’s tablet type dash synchronizes with smartphones and allows for preset and customized digital riding modes. From the dash or a smartphone one can calibrate and monitor the LiveWire’s power output, charge-status, traction-control settings, and ABS braking characteristics. The EV has navigation capabilities and a Bluetooth system for music, helmet comms, and to accept incoming phone calls.

Harley Davidson is famous for its internal combustion rumble—which warranted a new signature electric sound generated from the LiveWire’s mechanical movements. “We spent a lot of time optimizing it…The sound comes from a combination of the electric motor, the transmission, and the drive line,” explained Stanley.

You can power the LiveWire on a home outlet or get your electric motor running to head out on the highway with the same fast-charging networks that power Teslas—such as Chargepoint.

HD is also adding charging stations at its LiveWire selling dealers and announced a partnership last week with Electrify America to provide new owners 500 kW for free.

Harley Davidson’s electric-shift puts the iconic American company in a position to hedge competition from e-moto startups, as it jumps out front as the EV leader among established motorcycle companies.

The major gas names have been slow to embrace production e-motos. None of the big motorcycle manufacturers—Honda, Kawasaki, BMW—offer a street-legal, electric motorcycle in the U.S. KTM introduced its Freeride E-XC off-road motorcycle in 2018 and will soon offer a junior version for the first all electric Supercross racing class.

Harley’s electric moves come after a period of revenue decline for the company and stagnation in the powered two-wheeler market.

The U.S. motorcycle industry has been in pretty bad shape since the recession. New sales dropped by roughly 50 percent since 2008—with sharp declines in ownership by everyone under 40—and have never recovered.

LiveWire Charging Harley DavidsonAnalysts, such as UBS’s Robin Farley, have suggested that appealing to the preferences of more tech-savvy millennials, over those of baby boomers, should be a priority for Harley Davidson.

For the last several years, e-motorcycle startups have worked to produce models that rejuvenate interest from a younger generation, while creating gas rider converts. In addition to offering more tech features to attract new riders, companies such as California based Zero have worked to close gaps on price, range, charge times and performance compared to petrol powered motorcycles. The startup began shipping its 2020 $18,995 SR/F model—a potential LiveWire competitor—with a 161 mile city range, one-hour charge capability, and a top speed of 124 mph.

E-moto startup Fuell will debut its $10,995 Flow with 2.7 second 0-60 speed, 150 mile range, and 30 minute charge times in Europe this year, then the U.S., according to founder Erik Buell.

Harley Davidson LiveWire TrackSo market competition aside, what’s it like to ride Harley Davidson’s LiveWire? Nearly a dozen laps around NYC’s Formula E circuit offered a solid first impression. The LiveWire is everything that’s becoming the e-motorcycle experience: lightning-like acceleration with little noise beyond the wind cracking around you.

The biggest distinction between the LiveWire—vs. gas motorcycles—is its monster torque and uninterrupted forward movement. The machine has one gear, so there’s no clutch or shifting. With only a battery, processor, and drive-train there’s much less that needs to happen mechanically to deliver power from the throttle to the rear wheel. You simply twist and go.

As Harley Davidson rolls out its adrenaline inducing LiveWire, there are several things to watch. The first is how the $29K price-point fares in the market vis-a-vis startup competitors, such as Zero—who are launching comparable, yet less expensive e-motos. HD’s Paul James (see video) gives LiveWire an edge over Zero on performance attributes and Harley’s service and dealer networks. Sales figures will soon tell if buyers agree.

Harley Davidson’s EV foray could also create the spark that pushes the gas motorcycle industry toward electric—which would make HD a case of the almost disrupted transportation company becoming the disruptor.

And even more significant than the LiveWire release is what Harley Davidson offers next. The company has committed to produce a lighter, lower priced, e-motorcycle in the near future, as well as e-scooters and e-bicycles.

At an event this spring, Harley Davidson’s VP for Product Marc McAllister stressed the need for HD to remain a premium motorcycle transportation company, while developing products for a more on-demand, urban mobility era.

Harley Davidson’s LiveWire is a leap in that direction, but the company’s next round of two-wheel EVs—and the market response—will tell us more about HD’s relevance in the transformation of how people chose to move from place to place.









I asked the US government for my immigration file and all I got were these stupid photos

“Welcome to the United States of America.”

That’s the first thing you read when you find out your green card application was approved. Those long-awaited words are printed on fancier-than-usual paper, an improvement on the usual copy machine-printed paper that the government sends to periodically remind you that you, like millions of other people, are stuck in the same slow bureaucratic system.

First you cry — then you cry a lot. And then you celebrate. But then you have to wait another week or so for the actual credit card-sized card — yes, it’s green — to turn up in the mail before it really kicks in.

It took two years to get my green card, otherwise known as U.S. permanent residency. That’s a drop in the ocean to the millions who endure twice, or even three times as long. After six years as a Brit in New York, I could once again leave the country and arrive without worrying as much that a grumpy border officer might not let me back in because they don’t like journalists.

The reality is, U.S. authorities can reject me — and any other foreign national — from entering the U.S. for almost any reason. As we saw with President Trump’s ban on foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority nations — since ruled unconstitutional — the highly vetted status of holding a green card doesn’t even help much. You have almost no rights and the questioning can be brutally invasive — as I, too, have experienced, along with the stare-downs and silent psychological warfare they use to mentally shake you down.

I was curious what they knew about me. With my green card in one hand and empowered by my newfound sense of immigration security, I filed a Freedom of Information request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to obtain all of the files the government had collected on me in order to process my application.

Seven months later, disappointment.

USCIS sent me a disk with 561 pages of documents and a cover letter telling me most of the interesting bits were redacted, citing exemptions such as records relating to officers and government staff, investigatory material compiled for law enforcement purposes and techniques used by the government to decide an applicant’s case.

But I did get almost a decade’s worth of photos, taken by border officials, entering the United States.

Seven years of photos taken at the U.S. border (Source: Homeland Security/FOIA)

What’s interesting about these encounters is that you can see me getting exponentially fatter over the years while my sense of style declines at about the same rate.

Each photo comes with a record from a web-based system called the Customer Profile Management Service (CPMS), which stores from a camera at port of entries all the photos of foreign nationals visiting or returning to the U.S.

Immigration officers and border officials use the Identity Verification Tool (IVT) to visually confirm my identity and review my records at the border and my interview, as well as checking for any “derogatory” information that might flag a problem in my case.

The government’s IDENT system, which immigration staff and border officials use to visually verify an applicant’s identity along with any potentially barring issues, like a criminal record (Source: FOIA)

Everyone’s file will differ, and my green card case was somewhat simple and straightforward compared to others.

Some 90 percent of my file are things my lawyer submitted — my application, my passport and existing visa, my bank statements and tax returns, my medical exam and my entire set of supporting evidence — such as my articles, citations and letters of recommendation. The final 10 percent were actual responsive government documents, and some random files like photocopied folders.

And there was a lot of duplication.

From the choice files we are publishing, the green card process appears highly procedural and offered little to nothing in terms of decision making by immigration officers. Many of the government-generated documents were mostly box-ticking exercises, such as verifying the authenticity of documents along the chain of custody. A single typo can derail an entire case.

The government uses several Homeland Security systems to check my immigration records against USCIS’ Central Index System, and verify my fingerprints against my existing records stored in its IDENT system to ensure it’s really me at the interview.

USCIS’ Central Index System, a repository of data held by the government as applications go through the immigration process (Source: FOIA)

During my adjustment-of-status interview with an immigration officer, my “disposition” was recorded but redacted. (Spoiler alert: it was probably “sweaty and nervous.”)

A file filled out by an immigration officer at an adjustment of status interview, which green card candidates are subject to (Source: FOIA)

Following the interview, the immigration officer checks to make sure that the interview procedures are properly carried out. Homeland Security also pulls in data from the FBI to check to see if my name is on a watchlist, but also to confirm my identity as the real person applying for the green card.

And, in the end, two years of work and waiting came down to a single checked box following my interview. “Approved.”

The final adjudication of an applicant’s green card (Source: FOIA)

It’s no secret that you can FOIA for your green card file. Some are forced to file to obtain their case files in order to appeal their denied applications.

Runa Sandvik, a senior director of information security at The New York Times, obtained her border photographs from Homeland Security some years ago. Nowadays, it’s just as easy to request your files. Fill out one form and email it to the USCIS.

For me, next stop is citizenship. Just five more years to go.

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