Special Issue "Agents and Robots for Reliable Engineered Autonomy"

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Rafael C. Cardoso
Guest Editor
Department of Computer Science, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Interests: multi-agent systems; automated planning; formal verification
Dr. Angelo Ferrando
Guest Editor
Department of Computer Science, The University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
Interests: multi-agent systems; runtime verification; software engineering
Dr. Daniela Briola
Guest Editor
Department of IT, Systems and Communications, University of Milano-Bicocca, 20126 Milano MI, Italy
Interests: multi-agent systems; field monitoring; software engineering
Dr. Claudio Menghi
Guest Editor
Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust, University of Luxembourg, Luxembourg L-1855, Luxembourg
Interests: cyber-physical systems; software engineering; formal methods
Mr. Tobias Ahlbrecht
Guest Editor
Department of Informatics, Clausthal University of Technology, Clausthal-Zellerfeld, Germany
Interests: multi-agent systems; agent-oriented software engineering; explainable AI

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Autonomous agents are a well-established area that has been researched for decades, both from a design and implementation viewpoint. Nonetheless, the application of agents in real world scenarios is largely adopted when logical distribution is needed, while still limited when physical distribution is necessary. In parallel, robots are no longer used only in industrial applications but are instead being applied to an increasing number of domains, ranging from robotic assistants to search and rescue. Robots in these applications often benefit from (or require) some level (semi or full) of autonomy. Thus, multiagent solutions can be exploited in robotic scenarios, considering their strong similarity both in terms of logical distribution and interaction among autonomous entities.

The autonomous behaviour responsible for decision-making should (ideally) be verifiable since these systems are expensive to produce and are often deployed in safety-critical situations. Thus, verification and validation are important and necessary steps towards providing assurances about the reliability of autonomy in these systems. This Special Issue aims to bring together researchers from the autonomous agents, software engineering and the robotics communities, as combining knowledge coming from these two research areas may lead to innovative approaches that solve complex problems related with the verification and validation of autonomous robotic systems. Consequently, we encourage submissions that combine agents, robots and verification, but we also welcome papers focused on one of these areas, as long as their applicability to the other areas is clear.

The Special Issue seeks original contributions that address but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Agent-based modular architectures applicable to robots;
  • Agent oriented software engineering to model high-level control in robotic development;
  • Agent programming languages and tools for developing robotic or intelligent autonomous systems;
  • Coordination, interaction and negotiation protocols for agents and robots;
  • Distributed problem solving and automated planning in autonomous systems;
  • Fault tolerance, health-management and long-term autonomy;
  • Real world applications of autonomous agents and multiagent systems in robotics;
  • Real-time multiagent systems;
  • Reliable software engineering of autonomy;
  • Runtime verification of autonomous agents and robotic systems;
  • Task and resource allocation in multirobot systems;
  • Verification and validation of autonomous systems;
  • Testing and simulation tools and techniques for autonomous or robotic systems;
  • Self-healing entities and systems.

This Special Issue is based on the First International Workshop on “Agents and Robots for reliable Engineered Autonomy (AREA)”, https://area2020.github.io/, co-located with ECAI 2020. Authors of selected papers from the workshop are invited to submit an extended version of their text and completely new submissions from the community are also welcome.

Dr. Rafael C. Cardoso
Dr. Angelo Ferrando
Dr. Daniela Briola
Dr. Claudio Menghi
Mr. Tobias Ahlbrecht
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Journal of Sensor and Actuator Networks is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • multiagent systems
  • formal methods
  • robotics
  • software engineering

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission, see below for planned papers.

Planned Papers

The below list represents only planned manuscripts. Some of these manuscripts have not been received by the Editorial Office yet. Papers submitted to MDPI journals are subject to peer-review.

Title: Exploratory Experiments on Programming Autonomous Robots in Jadescript
Authors: Eleonora Iotti, Giuseppe Petrosino, Stefania Monica, and Federico Bergenti
Affiliation: Università degli Studi di Parma
Abstract: This paper describes early experiments intended to validate the possibility of programming autonomous robots using an agent-oriented programming language. Proper perception of the environment, by means of various types of sensors, and timely reaction to external events, by means of effective actuators, are essential to provide robots with a sufficient level of autonomy. The agent-oriented programming paradigm is relevant with this respect because it offers language-level abstractions to timely process events and to effectively command actuators. In this paper, a recent agent-oriented programming language called Jadescript is presented together with its new features specifically designed to handle events. Early experiments on a first case study are used to demonstrate the validity of the proposed approach and to exemplify the use of the language to program autonomous robots.
Keywords: Jadescript; Agent-oriented programming; Event-driven programming

Title: Toward Campus Mail Delivery Using BDI
Chidiebere Onyedinma, Patrick Gavigan, and Babak Esfandiari
Ottawa University, Carleton University
Autonomous systems developed with the Belief-Desire-Intention (BDI) architecture are usually mostly implemented in simulated environments. In this project we sought to build a BDI agent for use in the real world for campus mail delivery in the tunnel system at Carleton University. Ideally, the robot should receive a delivery order via a mobile application, pick up the mail at a station, navigate the tunnels to the destination station, and notify the recipient. We linked the Robot Operating System (ROS) with a BDI reasoning system to achieve a subset of the required use cases. ROS handles the low-level sensing and actuation, while the BDI reasoning system handles the high-level reasoning and decision making. Sensory data is orchestrated and sent from ROS to the reasoning system as perceptions. These perceptions are then deliberated upon, and an action string is sent back to ROS for interpretation and driving of the necessary actuator for the action to be performed. In this paper we present our current implementation, which closes the loop on the hardware-software integration, and implements a subset of the use cases required for the full system.
agent-based systems; autonomous robotics; BDI; Jason; ROS

Title: Towards a Road Junction Digital Highway Code for an Agent-based Autonomous Vehicle
Authors: Gleifer Vaz Alves, Louise Dennis, and Michael Fisher
Affiliations: UTFPR, Brazil; Univ. of Manchester, UK
Abstract: The daily use of autonomous vehicles (AV) on our roads is a reality in the near future. Therefore, many developments have been conducted towards the deployment of such technology, including sensors, cameras, algorithms, and so on. However, few works are concerned with the use of the Rules of the Road by the AV's and the verification whether an AV behaves according to such rules. Here, we aim to give a proper representation for the Road Junction rules from the UK Highway Code using temporal logic. Besides, we implement an agent-based AV using Gwendolen programming language and also describe the formal verification of our AV-agent, i.e. check if the agent behaves according to the Road Junction rules. With this, we point out some contributions discussing whether a given Digital Highway Code is properly designed for AV's or if it demands some changes on its Rules of the Road.
Keywords: Rules of the Road; Autonomous Vehicles; Agents; Formal Verification

Title: Hybrid Verification Technique for Decision-Making of Self-Driving Vehicles
Mohammed Al-Nuaimi, Sapto Wibowo, Hongyang Qu, and Jonathan Aitken
University of Sheffield; State Polytechnic of Malang
Abstract: The evolution of driving technology has recently progressed from active safety features and ADAS systems to fully sensor-guided autonomous driving. Bringing such a vehicle to market requires not only simulation and testing but formal verification to account for all possible probabilities of traffic scenarios. A new verification approach, which combines the use of two well-known model checker: Model Checker for Multi-Agent Systems (MCMAS) and probabilistic model checker (PRISM), is presented for this purpose. The overall structure of our Autonomous Vehicle (AV) system consists of: (1) A perception system of sensors that feeds data into (2) a Rational Agent (RA) based on a BeliefDesire-Intention (BDI) architecture which uses a model of the environment and connected to the RA for verification of decision-making, and (3) a feedback control systems for following a self-planned path. MCMAS is used to check the consistency and stability of the BDI agent logic during design-time. PRISM is used to provide the RA with the probability of success while it decides to take action during run-time operation. This allows the RA to select movements of the highest probability of success from several alternatives it can generate. This framework has been tested on a new AV software platform that we built using the Robot Operating System (ROS) and Virtual Reality (VR) Gazebo Simulator. It also includes a parking lot scenario to test the feasibility of this approach in a realistic environment. We also carried out a practical implementation of the AV system on an experimental testbed.
Self-driving vehicle;  Formal verification;  Model-checking;  Rational Agent;  Decisionmaking; ROS

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