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Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Zum Services, a Redwood City, Calif.-based student transportation startup, raised $130 million at an $800 million pre-money valuation led by SoftBank.

Why it matters: School bus transportation has become a nationwide problem, due to driver shortages, with some states even calling in the National Guard to help.

  • It's also a massive expense for school districts, second only to salaries. Zum is seeking to help in both areas, by reducing inefficiencies that can result in half-empty busses taking roundabout routes.
  • Other investors include Sequoia Capital and BMW iVentures.

The bottom line: "Zum uses software it has developed to help schools share infrastructure with other nearby districts, deploy appropriately sized vehicles, create efficient routes and adapt to families’ changing transportation needs. In addition to the technology, Zum provides several sizes of vehicles, from buses to vans and cars, and is moving toward having an all-electric fleet." — Cromwell Schubarth, SV Business Journal

Go deeper

Columbus bus system gets electric

Two electric buses outside of Columbus City Hall. The COTA bus on the right will begin carrying passengers next week. Photo: Tyler Buchanan/Axios

The first two electric buses in the Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) fleet will hit the streets this coming Monday.

Why it matters: The electric bus rollout is part of a long-term goal of COTA and the city of Columbus to cut back on carbon emissions by transitioning to greener energy sources.

  • The new electric buses can hold up to a six-hour charge and cost just shy of $1 million apiece.
  • COTA estimates each bus will save as much as $500,000 in maintenance and fuel costs over a 12-year lifespan.

Inside Biden's Taiwan flubs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Twice this year, President Biden has blurted out commitments that the U.S. is prepared to defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion — forcing the White House to walk back his statements and leading to confusion over a high-stakes national security policy.

Why it matters: U.S. defense officials have publicly aired their concerns that China will take Taiwan by force in the next four to six years, perhaps sooner. The president's position on this question may soon have real-world, life and death consequences.

"Atmospheric river" to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood

A map depicting 24-hour preciptation forecast (inches) ending Monday at 5a.m. local time. Photo: NOAA

A series of powerful "atmospheric river" storms are set dump historic amounts of rainfall across parts of drought-stricken California and the Pacific Northwest from this weekend, forecasters warn.

Why it matters: A strong atmospheric river, packing large amounts of moisture, is predicted to whiplash Northern California from drought to flood.