Mobile connectivity and mobile locality in networked vehicle systems: are we missing something?

Professor João Tasso de Figueiredo Borges de Sousa, Porto University

Recent and exciting developments in multi-vehicle systems for maritime operations are presented along with projections of future research challenges lying at the intersection of control and computation. First, a novel approach to find, track and sample dynamic features of the ocean with a multi-vehicle system is briefly described as background for assessing potential future ocean operations. Second, we show that this is a system in which physical and computational entities evolve, interact and communicate within an environment that can also be modified by the actions of those entities. Third, we revisit Y. C. Ho’s generalized control framework – in which there is more than one criterion and more than one intelligent controller, each of which having access to different information – to suggest that we may have been missing something in coordination and control since 1970. Fourth, we review the pioneering work on systems with evolving structure of the late Turing award-winner Robin Milner; the focus is on computational processes, reaction rules, and mobile connectivity and mobile locality, all intrinsic to networked multi-vehicle systems, but missing in most of the control literature. Finally, we discuss how the control and computation challenges arising in multi-vehicle systems can be addressed in the framework of coupled physical and computational dynamics and show how these challenges can be formulated as problems of optimization, invariance, and attainability in extended state-control spaces.


João Tasso de Figueiredo Borges de Sousa is with the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department from Porto University in Portugal. He holds a PhD and an MSc in Electrical Engineering, both awarded by Porto University. His research interests include autonomous underwater, surface and air vehicles, planning and execution control for networked vehicle systems, optimization and control, cyber-physical systems, and applications of networked vehicle systems to the ocean sciences, security and defense.

He is the head of the Laboratório de Sistemas e Tecnologias Subaquáticas – LSTS (Underwater Systems and Technologies Laboratory). The LSTS ( has pioneered the design, construction and deployment of networked underwater, surface and air vehicles for applications in ocean sciences, security and defense. Major accomplishments include the design of the award-winning Light Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LAUV), the LSTS open source software tool chain for networked vehicle systems (, and the annual Rapid Environmental Picture Atlantic exercise, organized in cooperation with the Portuguese Navy since 2010, and with the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation since 2014. The LSTS received the Arca second Prize for the best technological realizations Respectful to Environment in 2003 and the national BES Innovation National Award for the design of the Light Autonomous Underwater Vehicle in 2006.

He was awarded the Luso-American Foundation Fellowship by the Portuguese Studies Program from the University of California at Berkeley in 2002. He received an outstanding teaching award from Porto University in 2008.

He has been involved in fostering and growing a world-wide research community in this field with yearly conferences and workshops in the areas of Hybrid Systems, Networked Vehicle Systems and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles. He has been lecturing on networked vehicle systems in renowned universities in the United States of America and Europe. He is a member of the IEEE Robotics and Automation Multi-robots Systems Technical Committee and of the International Federation of Automatic Control (IFAC) Marine Systems Technical Committee. He was the chair of the 2013 edition of the IFAC Navigation, Guidance and Control Workshop and is the chair of the 2018 IEEE AUV Symposium. He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Swedish Marine Robotics Center. He is in the editorial board of several scientific journals. He is a member of several NATO committees. He has authored over 300 publications, including 30 journal papers.