Ok, we didn't see this one coming. Then again, our idea of a Sunday drive is taking a taxi uptown. So imagine our surprise to find that the people at NXP Semiconductor and BMW thought it was a good idea to integrate a car key with a contact-less payment system. The prototype key features NXP's SmartMX security chip -- the same chip at the heart of many of the world's e-passports -- making it possible to use the key to pay for fuel at the pump, tolls (after uh, switching off the engine in the toll lane), or at any number of places where flagrantly flaunting your BMW logo-adorned key could get you noticed. What piqued out interest, however, is the promise that such a key could hold your personal access rights to unlock, and then start the engine of your own car or that of a rental company's while automatically configuring the interior with all your custom in-vehicle settings such as radio presets, mirror and seat adjustments, etc. It would even authorize (and pay for) future on-line BMW services across the entire fleet of Bimmers you don't own, but might choose to outfit the family with if the smart key option was available. The prototype on display at the CARTES & IDentification show in Paris next week will likely closely resemble the image above... only without the transformer.

[Thanks Stop_Spam_ming, transformer image courtesy of Luis Duran]