It also may consider how rear-seat passengers and pedestrians fare in crashes and is looking at new test procedures for electric vehicles.
"It can't be a static notion," NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told reporters today after a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington. "We always have to look at ways we can improve the margin of safety."
NHTSA performs the crash tests on new vehicles each year and posts the results on its website. The tests act as non- regulatory incentives for automakers to make safety improvements so they can use high ratings in their marketing.
According to the Federal Register notice, the "silver car" ratings could give higher scores to vehicles that use inflatable seat belts or technologies that prevent drivers from accidentally hitting the wrong pedal at low speeds.
Crash-prevention features are another area of focus for NHTSA.
Within the past few years, automakers have increasingly sold cars with advanced safety features that alert a driver to dangerous conditions -- and in some cases, can intervene to prevent a crash from occurring.
Those features do not factor into scores on NHTSA's longstanding five-star ratings, which show how well passengers would fare if a vehicle is involved in a frontal crash test, side crash or rollover accident.
In the notice, the agency says it intends to decide whether consumers want a new rating system to compare cars that use these features.
"In 2013, we plan to conduct focus group testing to determine if consumers would like alternative methods of having advanced technology information communicated and if ratings of advanced technologies, rather than the current approach of recommending advanced technologies, are preferred," the notice says.
Such a ratings system could become a selling point for companies that sell cars with crash-prevention features.
In an e-mail today, a spokesman for the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers said the group welcomes the review.
The group, which represents 12 automakers including GM, Ford and Toyota, needs to take a closer look at NHTSA's notice before commenting further, he said.
Gabe Nelson and Bloomberg contributed to this report.