COMMERCE WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, 2004 - fi Robotic Continued from Page 3 possible routes along dirt roads and rough trails, ranging from 150 to 210 miles. Even the shortest course would require the robots to average 15 mph, a feat that has eluded major defense companies. Several of the robots are capable of 65 mph but obstacles along the way will require them to go much slower as they rely on combinations of orientation devices ranging from GPS satellite positioning to digital compasses, ultrasonic scanners and gyroscopes. If no one finishes on time a likely outcome, many participants say - DARPA will host another contest, probably in 2006. In addition to military uses, technologies spawned by the Grand Challenge could eventually find form in such inventions as collision avoidance systems for cars or automated farm equipment. "It's not only conceivable, but it's expected that commercial applications for this technology will emerge," said Darrell Davidson, executive director of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, which includes a number of major defense companies. All eight teams that took part in Monday's trials failed in then- first try at finishing a flat obstacle course a little longer than a mile that was strewn with bricks, gravel patches and metal rods. Only two teams - from the California Institute of Technology and Palos Verdes High School in a wealthy suburb of Los Angeles - made it very far past the starting line on their first attempt. The other six had immediate mechanical problems and were making modifications before trying again. Earnings Continued from Page 3 dieted Kroger earnings of 22 cents per share. David B. Dillon, Kroger's chief executive, said the company expects lower earnings this year than in 2003, but he refused to offer specifics on a conference call with analysts. "They were clear ... that their earnings are going to be down even if you factor out the strike," said Andrew Wolf, an analyst in New York with BB&T Capital Markets. The company is uncertain of the total costs to settle the strike, rebuild Ralphs' business and boost companywide sales, Dillon said. The company will focus on reducing its costs for labor, administration, warehousing and other operations, Dillon said. He would not say how or where the reductions will be made. Supermarket operators also have been forced to intensify cost cuts to remain competitive against big-box retailers that sell groceries, including nonunion Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a huge and growing competitor in the grocery market. Albertsons chief executive Larry Johnston said the California strike reduced fourth quarter earnings by $90 million, or 24 cents a share. The quarter's earnings of 45 cents per share exceeded analysts' estimates of 20 cents. For the year, Albertsons reported net income of $556 million, or $1.51 a share, on sales of $35.44 billion. In 2002, Albertsons earned $485 million, or $1.22 a share, on revenue of $35.63 billion. Kroger also cited other expenses that collectively reduced after-tax earnings by $663.1 million, or 89 cents per diluted share. Those were a $444.2 million charge for its Smith's store division in seven Western states and a $75 million write-down for 74 underperforming stores. Still, Kroger's sales for the latest quarter increased 4.5 percent to $13 billion, including stores affected by the strikes. The California contract that The other 12 teams were making their first runs Tuesday and it was expected that the field would be winnowed. Warren Williams of Baldwin, Mo., who calibrates precision manufacturing tools by day and plays with remote- controlled robots in his spare time, was desperately seeking radar for his converted Kawasaki all-terrain vehicle. Without the radar, the robot can't spot some roadblocks and must limit its speed to about 5 mph. Even the most feared competitor - Carnegie Mellon University's "Red Team" - has been racing against the clock. The team has used cash and in- kind contributions valued at more than $2 million from heavyweight sponsors including Intel Corp. and Boeing Co. to arm itself with super-fast computers and sophisticated mapping software. Team leader William "Red" Whittaker used robots to explore Antarctica in 1993 and map a 3,500-foot corridor in an abandoned Pennsylvania mine last year. But during practice last week near Carson City, Nev., the team's 1986 Hummer sped into a turn and rolled over, smashing antennae, sensors and other small parts. "My heart sank for a moment and I said the word, 'Wow!'" said Whittaker. "That's when character shows. It was one of those moments when, literally and figuratively, your world is turned upside down." The team found new parts and repaired the vehicle. DARPA officials warned against reading too much into unimpressive trial runs, saying many snags are easy to fix. Other contenders include a partnership of Oshkosh Truck Corp. and Ohio State University, which is using a 16-ton, off-road Marine transport vehicle that can handle 60 percent grades and push through five feet of water, according to team leader Jim union workers approved to end the strike covers 70,000 workers, a majority of them employed by Albertsons, Kroger and Safeway Inc., which operates Vons and Pavilions. The contract offered no raises, requires employees to pay for health benefits for the first time and includes two one-tune bonuses for hours already worked. Union leaders said they wanted to protect affordable health care, pensions and job security. Albertsons said it would offer discounts to shoppers to draw them back into its southern California stores, along with movie tickets. Kroger didn't say how it would respond to that, but competition likely will dictate a response, Wolf said. "Generally, if one guy does something, you're going to have to do something, or your business walks next door," Wolf said. Kroger shares were down 35 cents to close at $18.56 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange. Albertsons' shares fell 21 cents to close at $23.91. For fiscal 2003, Kroger earnings were $314.6 million, or 42 cents per share, compared with $1.2 billion, or $1.52 per share, a year earlier. Sales increased 4 percent to $53.8 billion. The 2003 results included charges of $801.3 million after taxes, or $1.06 per share, for expenses including the strikes, asset write-down and resolving disputes involving energy supply arrangements. Kroger operates 2,532 supermarkets and multi- department stores in 32 states under various names. Its business also includes 802 convenience stores, 440 jewelry stores, 466 supermarket fuel centers and 41 food processing plants. Albertsons employs 200,000 workers at more than 2,300 stores and other facilities in 31 states. Associated Press reporter , Bob Pick in Boise, Idaho, contributed to this report. On the Net: Kroger: http :llwww. kroger, com Albertsons Inc.: http:llwww.albertsons.com Fravert. Industrial engineer Anthony Levandowski has developed a two-wheeled dirt bike that is tough and agile but also prone to falling, especially at slow speeds. To help cover its $100,000 cost, he rented rooms in his Albany, Calif., house. "I've been pulling triple all- nighters, which I was never able to do back in college because the work was never that interesting," said Levandowski, 23, a recent graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. Other entrants are using modified sport utility vehicles, dune buggies and ATVs. Participants say the key to success is how well sensing devices - including digital cameras, radar and sonar feed data to the onboard computers. If they work properly, the sensors should be able to tell a boulder from a tumbleweed and determine whether a ravine is too deep to cross. But coordinating sensors with navigation and steering systems has been a daunting challenge. "Everyone thinks they have a solution to the problem of how to handle the flood of data," said Bill Zimmerly, who wrote software for 28 years and helped design the Kawasaki ATV entrant. "At these speeds, no one has been able to do it." DARPA outlined plans for the Grand Challenge 13 months ago and had 106 applications by November before it narrowed the field to 25 teams. The race ends with an 11- mile run through a dry lake across the Nevada state line. "If they make it through the first 30 miles, I think they have a good chance of making to the finish line," Fish said. i Study says chronic California : housing shortage is overstated ; By JIM WASSERMAN Associated Press Writer SACRAMENTO - A chronic statewide housing shortage blamed for driving up California home prices and forcing families to share dwellings may be overstated and is largely confined to major cities, says a study released today. hi an analysis countering widespread popular opinion, the Public Policy Institute of California suggests there is little evidence of a statewide housing shortage outside metropolitan Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego. The study is being criticized as an outdated snapshot of 2000 census data and a mere academic exercise. It found thousands of new homes in fast- growing suburbs in the Central Valley and Riverside and San Bernardino counties have rendered the state's much-proclaimed housing deficit largely a phenomenon of 13 urban counties. Even there, the report states, the housing shortage has been overstated by projections that overlooked California's unique demographics that include above-average numbers of immigrants, extended families and children. Widespread citizen opposition to more housing also has slowed construction in the nine-county Bay area, and Orange, Los Angeles, Ventura and San Diego counties, the study says. Regions with the worst housing shortages also are "the least receptive to new construction," the study found, noting that "restrictive land-use policies in those regions exacerbated the shortages." Several critics objected to the study's claim that California was short only 138,000 homes in 2000 compared to typical estimates of 500,000 or higher. Others said a housing surplus in inland areas is meaningless when most of the state's jobs remain in expensive, highly populated and house-short urban areas. Such questions are sparking fresh debate on one of the state's most critical issues: how much housing is necessary - and where - in a state of 35 million people growing by 600,000 newcomers yearly. "The good news might be that what they're saying is the problem isn't as bad as we feared ! and if it's not as bad, it might be solvable," said Dowell Myers, a University of Southern California housing expert. "I think what they're saying is there's hope." John Landis, a University of California at Berkeley housing expert, said California may now begin to overcome its housing deficit ' with 180,000 new residences a year instead of 220,000. Landis projected the higher number during the late 1990s for a state housing study still cited by builders and politicians. Homebuilders last year built nearly 190,000 homes and apartments in California and aim this year to build still more. Hans Johnson, author of the PPIC study, attributed his dramatic downsizing of California's housing shortage to California's rapid 1990s growth in the number of children who aren't old enough to need new homes, and immigrants who often live in large extended families instead of moving into new homes or apartments. He said 84 percent "of the apparent shortage in California's occupied housing units can be attributed to demographic differences between California and the rest of the nation." Stephanie Pincetl, author of the 1998 book on the state's growth, "Transforming California," said the PPIC theory rests too strongly on how the poor contend with rising rents. "They're assuming that overcrowding has eliminated the problem," she said. But Johnson pointed to other 1990s demographic events that reduced demand for California's housing, including a major recession that drove many young people to other states and an end to Baby Boomers entering their prime years for forming households. "That's two strong demographic forces coinciding to produce a change in housing demand that was not like anything else we had seen in California," he said. , !»«',•*«.-.• 0-States. 1,511,538 square miles of no roaming, no long distance, wireless freedom. ID-STATE RATE PLAN AREAS! Western Share 5 " 1400 Western Edge 300 NOKIA 226OPACKAOE Included Anytime Minutes and Night / Weekend Minutes are valid for voice calls made from or received in your Rate Plan Area. All other usage Is roaming. Night / Weekend is 7:00 p.m. - 6:59 a.m. M-F, all day Saturday and Sunday. 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