The car key is about to go head on with the mobile phone in the battle for which one will become your new wallet.  

BMW believes you’ll be paying for things when out an about not with your wallet, or your phone, but with your car keys.

In a paper released on Monday outlining what “the car key of the future” will be, the German car company believes that your humble car key will become an important part of your life when it comes to spending money.

“Some car keys are [already] able to store vehicle-related data, such as mileage, fuel level, battery charge level or service data, though this information can only be read by the appropriate appliance at a specialist garage.

“The BMW Group believes that the car key of the future will allow personal access to a new mobility experience and offer a significantly wider range of features. It will permit the simple and convenient use of future services along the travel chain and in everyday use,” says BMW, confident and apparently unaware of the large push into NFC by Google and others in recent months.

The comments come as mobile phone companies embrace not keys but mobile phones, following Google’s move to include NFC (Near Field Communication) support in its latest Android operating system: version 2.3.

While that means company’s like Samsung, Nokia, and Sony Ericsson are adding the functionality to their next generation of handsets already, and many more like HTC and Apple are rumoured to be doing so, BMW feels that it can get in on the action too with a connected car key and its next generation of cars.

“BMW Group specialists have added an NFC interface and a security controller to a current BMW car key as a basis for interaction with contactless payment, ticketing and access systems.

“These days the key is already able to store tickets for public transport (KeyTicketing) as well as vehicle information (KeyInfo); it can be used to make payments (KeyPayment) and opens not just cars but hotel rooms as well (KeyAccess),” says BMW Group in a research paper.

According to BMW the system will be perfect for when the driver needs to ditch his car due to traffic and jump on a train (yeah that happens a lot we know).

“If the navigation system warns of congestion in the town centre or the driver wishes to make a particular journey by rail, he can use KeyTicketing to purchase the relevant ticket for use on local public transport or a train service from the comfort of his car and have it stored on his key. Using the iDrive Controller, he can select the destination and confirm the purchase of the requested ticket. As an alternative to this form of booking via the display and iDrive, the driver will in future also have the option of requesting the BMW ConnectedDrive call centre to search for the most suitable connection. Following confirmation by the customer, the relevant ticket is then booked, e.g. from the servers of Deutsche Bahn, paid for and sent to the car via the existing BMW Online connection. The car automatically transfers the ticket to the customer’s key via the available UHF (ultra high frequency). The customer can now proceed straight from the car to the train without having to buy a ticket from a machine or print out an e-ticket.”

Presumably a better solution however, will be paying for petrol at the pump at a service station; saving you from having to get your wallet or phone out at all.

“Our vision is that, in future, the key will not only mean access to the car but, inside and outside the car, will become as it were the ‘key’ to many functions. I would then be able to set out while checking for just one thing: Have I got my BMW key on me?” says Thomas Kratz, development access and authentication systems, BMW Group.

Hasn’t he seen that you can already start your car with your mobile phone?

What tech do you think will win? The car key or the mobile phone? Let us know in the comments below.