Self-driving cars can't seem to stay out of the news these days for all the wrong reasons.

But it's becoming increasingly clear that autonomous vehicles are the future of personal transport - and that the future is coming fast. That, in turn, is driving attention to the big companies that have equally big exposure to the self-driving vehicle trend.

One of the best ways to play the autonomous vehicle trend right now is with the chipmakers. The companies that make the "brains" behind self-driving cars own some of the most defensible intellectual property in the space right now. And beyond exposure to existing self-driving car programs, partnering with chipmakers provides a way for the scores of carmakers playing catch-up on their self-driving car tech to accelerate their pace.

Today, we're turning to the charts for a technical look at the price trajectory driving three major autonomous driving chip makers showing bullish setups this summer -- and when you should buy them.

Nvidia Corp.

Up first is Nvidia Corp. (NVDA) , a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS. Nvidia has existing relationships with most major autonomous driving programs right now, in no small part thanks to the firm's equally exciting exposure to GPU-accelerated artificial intelligence. But you don't need to know anything about Nvidia's autonomous driving programs to see that shares are teetering on the verge of breakout territory right now.

Nvidia is currently forming an ascending triangle pattern, a bullish continuation setup that's formed by horizontal resistance up above shares at $250, with uptrending support to the downside. Basically, as Nvidia pinballs in between those two technically important price levels, shares have been getting squeezed closer and closer to breakout territory above $250.

Once that happens materially (that is, beyond the failed breakout attempt made earlier in May), we've got a new buy signal in shares. Relative strength, the indicator down at the bottom of Nvidia's chart, has been in an uptrend of its own for the last year, signaling that this stock continues to systematically outperform the rest of the market right now. Once shares materially clear $250, we've got a strong indication that buyers are back in control of things.

Intel Corp.

Intel Corp. (INTC) became a leader in autonomous vehicles back when the company acquired Mobileye in 2017. While the firm's tech is still a tiny part of Intel's overall business, it has the potential to become much more.

Meanwhile, the price action in this semiconductor giant is about as simple as it gets. Intel has spent most of 2018 bouncing its way higher in a very well-defined uptrending channel. Simply put, that uptrend has identified the high-probability range for shares of Intel to remain stuck within. And so, as Intel bounces off support for the fifth time this summer, now looks like a good time to own this stock.

The 50-day moving average has acted like a very good proxy for support since February. As long as Intel stays above the 50-day, it's worth owning.

Advanced Micro Devices

Last on the list is Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) , a chip company that's been long rumored to be jumping into the self-driving car space. And after trading in a downtrend for the past year, the tide appears to finally be turning in AMD. Shares broke through trendline resistance on their fifth test of that level, signaling an end to the downtrend - and the potential for more upside ahead.

AMD's rally from around the $9 level back in April has been substantial, and AMD is likely due for some semblance of a correction here, now that shares have crossed above the top of their downtrend. That said, the mere fact that AMD has basically done nothing from a price standpoint in the past year opens the door to more upside as shares play catch up to the company's more AI-centric peers.

If you decide to jump into the AMD trade, prior support at $12.50 looks like a reasonable place to park a protective stop.

Nvidia is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club. Want to be alerted before Jim Cramer buys or sells AAPL or GOOGL? Learn more now.

This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.

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