Abstract The state-of-the-art of AUV (autonomous underwater vehicle) architectures and some unsolved problems such as proactiveness and sociability of AUV are discussed firstly. Then, an agent-based and team-oriented architecture for AUV (ATA-AUV) is presented. With many good properties such as proactiveness, autonomy, reactivity, sociability, and so on, ATA-AUV is suitable for AUV team cooperation in the complex undersea environment. Four functional evaluation criterions for AUV architectures are given for comparing ATA-AUV with the existing classical AUV architectures. At last, a simulation experiment on ATA-AUV is demonstrated to show the feasibility and validity of ATA-AUV.