Drivers have got used to cars doing ever more for them – and now BMW is working on a vehicle that will even buy its own petrol.
After filling up, motorists will simply wave their ignition key in front of the pump to settle their bill, eliminating the need to queue up tediously in the forecourt shop.
The same technology will also work for parking meters, meaning drivers will no longer face the anguish of rooting around for the right coins and usually coming up a few pence short.
The system works because the key contains a tiny chip holding details of the driver’s bank account.
Fuel pumps and ticket machines need to be fitted with a small electronic reader that can decipher the details and debit the cash accordingly.
The system, which may also be fitted at toll booths and even train and Underground stations for drivers leaving their cars behind, does not use a PIN code – raising fears that the keys would be targeted by thieves.
But BMW said the keys could be quickly cancelled if lost or stolen and the company hopes the system will be so successful that its drivers will use the key as their personal credit card.
Dutch firm NXP Semiconductors, which has developed the key along with BMW, revealed a prototype – with two small antennas on the top – at a trade show in Paris this month.
A spokesman said the scheme could also be used by park-and-ride drivers who wanted to jump on a bus.
He said: ‘This key works in a very similar way to the Oyster card used on public transport in London.
‘If the petrol station is fitted with a reader, you could pay the bill just using the key and without the need to go inside.
‘There is no chip and PIN involved so it is quicker than a credit card. The key looks like the one now used in a BMW 7 Series.’
He explained: ‘All you need to do is hold it about 4in from the reader and it will automatically take the money from your account.
‘We hope it could also be used by people who want to leave their cars and jump on a train, and they could just hold their keys up to a reader in the train station.
‘This is all about making life easier for BMW drivers, and allowing them to get in their cars without worrying where their wallet is or if they have enough cash.’
Professor Raymond Freymann, managing director of BMW Group Research and Technology, said: ‘We are doing research in enhancing the capabilities of the car key into one smart device for access, payment and service that will simplify the lives of BMW car drivers in the future.’
The key has been given the green light by the German Federal Office of Information Security, meaning it is satisfied it meets the country’s highest standards for keeping bank details safe.